felps: the aggressive star who had to reinvent himself
The end of 2017 was a turning point in felps’ career. The then 20-year-old, who had been recruited in February by SK to replace Lincoln "fnx" Lau, stepped down from the roster to make way for Ricardo "boltz" Prass as internal issues reached a boiling point in the aftermath of a quarter-final exit at PGL Major Krakow. felps had long seemed to be living on borrowed time, his aggressive style having often clashed with that of Fernando "fer" Alvarenga, and the five titles that SK had won with him, three of which at Big Events, were not enough to convince the team to work on their issues rather than hitting the panic button.
ELEAGUE Major Boston – where boltz was not allowed to play after participating in the qualifiers with Immortals – was felps’ last event with SK. As the Major came to an end and the new tournament season began, reality final dawned on him: he did not have a team and was out of the circuit for the first time in two years.
“After the Major, that is when it hit me,” felps says. “I would have to start over and accept what I would be offered, both in terms of a team and an organization. I have always said that I am not afraid to start over. Of course there was a negative side to it as I stopped attending tournaments, but I learned a lot during my hiatus from playing internationally.”
felps ended up joining Não Tem Como later that month, but he would have to wait until June to compete on LAN again. At ESL One Belo Horizonte, the Brazilian team – who had since replaced twin brothers Henrique "HEN1" Teles and Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles with Vito "kNgV-" Giuseppe and Marcelo "chelo" Cespedes - were sent packing after just two matches, with the squad averaging a troubling 0.86 rating.
Não Tem Como’s indifferent form continued after that as they bowed out of the ZOTAC Cup Masters Europe Finals and the Americas Minor in 5th-6th place, confirming fans’ fears that the team still needed fine-tuning.
“The team did not function well and the results were not good,” felps explains. “We were losing matches we believed we should not be losing. It came to a point where we did not improve, and the only thing left to do was to change players. I think it was not just because of one or two players. The synergy in the team was not good.”
While the team struggled to perform in-game, they remained heavily linked with a move to SK. As speculation intensified and fans began to track the players’ every social media interaction in search of clues, the consensus was that a move was close at hand. Nothing happened in the end, though, and felps insists that “there was never anything concrete” with the German organisation, whose ESL Pro League spot the team wound up taking.
“We were bootcamping there, next to their offices, and SK’s owners were helping us a bit,” he says. “Of course that created a lot of buzz, they had just lost their team, and the Brazilian fans thought they would get a new squad and that it would be a Brazilian one. But I think there was never anything to justify those rumors."
With fnx and Bruno "bit" Lima out of the picture, the team lost the right to use the Não Tem Como name and stayed in limbo until being unveiled by Brazilian organisation INTZ. To replace the veteran duo, the team turned to Alexandre "xand" Zizi and João "horvy" Horvath, two young players still waiting for a chance to compete internationally. The latter had initially joined as in-game leader, but felps ended up taking the baton, entering a new chapter in his career. “We realised that being the in-game leader was weighing on horvy”, felps explains. “I have been the captain since the start of the Pro League. I knew how the top teams worked, especially the North American ones, and I get help from kNg when I am out of ideas.”
Playing from Canada, INTZ got off to a slow start in the ESL Pro League, losing eight of their initial ten matches, but picked up some steam as the season progressed and grabbed the region’s final spot at the season finals after finishing in sixth place, ahead of Cloud9, Complexity and fellow Brazilian side Luminosity.
“Our goal at first was to just avoid relegation," felps admits. “Every match felt like we were playing for our lives. I do not like to play every match like it is a final, but that is what happened, especially in the Pro League.
“We do not have any goals set for the finals. I just hope that, with the experience that kNg, chelo and I have, we can help the young guys so that they do not feel the pressure and we can surprise just like we did in the regular season and prove that we are not dead, like everyone thought."
The EPL Finals will provide INTZ with an exciting opening clash against BIG, who eliminated Não Tem Como back at ESL One Belo Horizonte and were labelled “trash” and “weak” by kNgV- as he taunted Fatih "gob b" Dayik’s men in the PGL Major Krakow playoffs. Yet felps insists that there is nothing special about his team facing the German side in their first match on Danish soil.
“I try not to think too much about who I will face,” felps says. “I have faced BIG four or five times in my career, and they are a very hard team to beat. They have very good players who can destroy any team on a good day. They eliminated us in Belo Horizonte, but we did not have great expectations for that tournament, we were a new team and we were not really well prepared.
“Maybe kNg will play really well out of anger and will destroy them [laughs], and victory will go our way. I think it is a healthy rivalry.”
The conversation then focuses on kNgV-. The outspoken Brazilian, who infamously threatened Pujan "FNS" Mehta and made what was deemed to be a homophobic comment targeted at renowned analyst Duncan "Thorin" Shields, is often regarded as liability due to his short temper. felps, however, has nothing but positive words for his teammate.
“People have a wrong impression of him,” felps says. “He made some mistakes, but he was provoked by people who, out of malice, wanted those things to happen.
“I was one of those who fought for him to join the team. He is very good, and was one of the best in the world last year, in my opinion. He will be one of the best again someday and he will clean up his image. I spend every day with him and I see just how dedicated he is and what a good guy he is. He brings joy and trust to the team."
It is impossible not to feel that felps has changed considerably since his SK days and that he is surer of himself now. He is no longer the one-dimensional selfish kid who struggled to play for the team, but a leader who recognises his role in guiding the younger, inexperienced talent in the squad. “I had to start over, and when I put in my head that I would have to face problems that I was not used to, I took it in a positive way,” he says. “Not having an organisation was good, it made us grow and work thrice as hard. We wanted to show we were not dead, we were just away from the scene.” And while the new felps admits that he “would have put more thought” into his decision to leave SK, he stresses that he is at peace with the choices he has made in his career.
“Even if I could, I would not go back in time, I would stick to my decisions," he says. "You have to make decisions in life. Today I understand that this is a job, that this is a rare opportunity and that you have to give your best every time."
One thing that remains the same is felps' burning desire to be celebrated as one of the game's best and brightness. In 2017, he came close to entering the top 20 player of the year list, and he maintains hope to find his name among the greats someday.
"Ever since I joined SK, my goal has been to enter a top 20 list," he says. "Of course I wanted to make the team be the best in the world again, but once that was accomplished my goal was simply to be one of the best in the world.
"Entering that list would make me very happy. I was very anxious [last year] and I had really high expectations, but I was not upset that I did not make it. I am still young, and there is no reason for me to give up."