Zeus: "I took the initiative on this decision, and I hope in the long run it will be a positive change for the team"
During the media day of BLAST Pro Series Moscow, we briefly spoke with Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko to discuss his retirement and his teammates' reaction.
BLAST Pro Series Moscow will mark the farewell for Na`Vi's captain, who will play his last tournament as a professional player before hanging up his mouse to focus on other projects, including the creation of an academy team to pass on his experience to younger talents.
During the media day, we briefly spoke with Zeus, who opened up about the hardships he faced during the early days of his career, his decision to retire, his teammates' reaction and his thoughts on coach Mikhaylo "Kane" Blagin's departure from the squad.
BLAST Pro Series will be your final tournament as a professional player, meaning you're concluding a 20-year-long career in competitive Counter-Strike. Reflect on these years and whether you feel content in regards to what you have achieved over them.
In the past few days, I've been thinking about the fact that 20 years isn't just a stint, it's a serious period of time. I can't say that I've been playing 20 years professionally, because I started playing professionally a little bit later, so I did it for around 16 of those 20 years, but I've been playing the game for 20 years. I can say that a lot of different things have happened, and people that have read my book understand what I had to go through. I'll repeat myself in saying that there was no money, including in the industry. We played because we liked the process, the fun and the time we spent together. We lived in all sorts of strange places, we drove old cars, sometimes traveled on busses and old trains. We didn't participate because of the money or the limelight, but because we loved the game and competing at tournaments; these were our aspirations.
There were moments when things were difficult when there was no money and we lived in a computer club. When we were eating 30 rubles-worth a day, we were saving up, eating something like a loaf of bread; it was like war times because we didn't have the opportunities. There were painful betrayals from people you didn't expect would conduct themselves this way, there were upsets. By the way, BLAST mentioned they wanted me to make a speech after the tournament, that's what I would say - there was a lot I had to go through, but we always marched towards our dream and our goal, which was victory. I've won over 60 tournaments, victories specifically, and each one was unique. Each victory gave its own impulse, its own energy, and of course, this applied to world championships of a large, global scale.
When so much shit happens around you, and in addition to what I've listed, even more shit happens - I was a person that used get very upset in the past, particularly after losses - every loss for me was extremely painful, I just wanted to throw myself under a car, I didn't want to live. This is true. Numerous times I would get drunk after losses, I was extremely upset. This happened in the past, and later on, I learned how to lose, I had good teachers who explained to me that I shouldn't be so harsh on myself, that it's just the process - someone wins, someone loses, but I was very hurt. Despite all of these negatives, at some point you hoist a trophy, you realise that you're a world champion, and you understand that all these negative moments were not endured in vain. The negative moments just dissipate and you feel some crazy invulnerability, you feel massive amounts of adrenaline, emotions, some sort of ecstasy. It was for these moments that I lived and played Counter-Strike for my entire life. This unyielding drive to win propelled me and even when things were very difficult, I kept going because I wanted to win.
I'd also like to mention that esports gave me a lot, particularly, and importantly, people. New acquaintances with amazing people that I have met in my life, and still talk to this day. I can remember my friend Aleksei Kolesnikov, Ugin, Kohanovskiy, Arbalet, the list goes on. I have met amazing people who have helped me throughout my life, who have supported me in difficult moments. These are people that I would move mountains for; it really inspired me and I am very grateful that life connected me with these people. If it wasn't for Counter-Strike and esports, things probably wouldn't have worked out this way.
To summarise, I'd say that I am very satisfied, and I think that I chose the right moment, because I think I'm leaving worthily. As they say, you need to leave well and in good time. There was no point prolonging it because everything needs to be done in its own time.
The possibility of your retirement had not been a secret ever since your interview back at BLAST Lisbon. Nevertheless, I'd like to find out how the team reacted when you finally delivered your decision to them. Did they try to dissuade you?
I think that, despite our differences and quarrels, we have something of a masculine understanding in the Na`Vi squad. I really hope the guys retain these relations because, knowing myself, this is the kind of person I am for life. I try to conduct myself with all people equally and with dignity, irrespective as to whether it's a millionaire or, for lack of a better expression, a "normal" person - it doesn't matter. As a team, we tried to go through everything together, and we have some form of internal synergy. Basically, we respect one another despite a list of issues.
They reacted with respect, they accepted my choice. Further, I let them know in advance - we had certain issues in the team, some of which we were unable to resolve or they were difficult in their resolution. I hope that my departure will have an impact on the guys and will make them look and think about the situation from a different angle, because, for me, all of the players on the team are very close to me. With flamie, I'd even say he's, maybe not my son, but something of a little brother. He grew up without parents, and, to a degree, I feel I'm responsible for him. I showed and taught him certain things in life, and, as they say, we're responsible for those we helped bring up. As such, I worry about him and the guys, and I want everything to work out for them.
Alongside your departure after BLAST, it was announced that Kane would part ways with the roster too. You were always someone who defended him going back to when the two of you joined and subsequently left Gambit. Do you feel this decision to part ways with him is correct for the squad?
If we're being honest, Misha [Kane] is a peculiar guy. He isn't always in the best of relations with the team - he's in the coaching role, and always has a strong sense of ambition. He's frequently quite a strict person in relation to the team, and this strictness can sometimes wind the players up. I was somewhat of a mediator in the team, helping to unify the coach and players. I was somewhere in the middle and tried to pump the brakes to make sure conflicts didn't get inflated. I just think the guys understand that when I'm not around, it will be difficult to work going forward. It's was a team initiative, and they want to try out something new. I don't think it's bad - if they have a new captain, then why not try out a new coach.
Changes are coming, and in all, we didn't achieve big results like we did last year. We had to either show results or continue our hard graft, which I understand that I can't do any longer. Alternatively, we could make adjustments, which is what we landed on, and I took the initiative on this decision, and I hope in the long run it will be a positive change for the team.