BnTeT: "Playing internationally was my goal, I'm just happy and grateful that I can finally do it"
Hansel "BnTeT" Ferdinand reflects on the early days of his career, back in Indonesia, his near three-year stint with TYLOO, and the transfer to Gen.G, who he will join next month.
BnTeT may not be the first Asian player to make the jump to North America in CS:GO, a title held by Mongolia’s Enkhtaivan "Machinegun" Lkhagva, who joined Splyce in mid-2016 after putting up outstanding performances earlier that year. The Indonesian is, however, the first Asian player with a solid track record to make the move, having already proved himself at Majors and Big Events despite always going in as the underdog with TYLOO. In the United States, he will be joining storied players like ELEAGUE Major Boston champion Timothy "autimatic" Ta, and renowned IGL and team-builder Damian "daps" Steele— whose cachet is still high despite their blunder in Cloud9—to play at the highest level in North America under Gen.G.
The road has not always been easy for BnTeT, who started playing Counter-Strike 1.6 at the age of 11, in fifth grade, with some of his brothers and their friends. They made a team to start competing at local tournaments, but he would eventually outgrow them to go on and play for one of the premier organizations in Indonesia, Jakarta-based nxl. The release of Global Offensive put a damper on BnTeT’s progression, because, like many players around the world at the time, he found the new game too jarring to jump into immediately. "I didn't want to play CS:GO because the game felt so weird," he tells HLTV.org. "I stopped for six months to a year. nxl called me after that to try out with the CS:GO team, which I did, and I started to love the new features."
Soon after he joined nxl, a team that could not commit to the game full-time and practiced just three times a week, they went on to win the MSI Beat It! SEA qualifier in Beijing, China, which gave the team access to the MSI Beat It! Grand Finals, BnTeT's first LAN event covered on HLTV, where they went out in the group stage with a 1-4 record.
Still an amateur, BnTeT had to put the game aside soon thereafter under pressure from his parents, who wanted him to take a more traditional career path. "I enrolled in college because my parents wanted me to study," he says about the time he went to school to get a degree in business management. "I took a break competitively, but I still played at home and I kept wanting to play because I love the game, so in 2016 decided to join nxl again. I just separated when I needed to study and when I had time to practice."
In late 2016, having realised that he needed a new challenge, BnTeT moved to Recca, linking up for the first time with Kevin "xccurate" Susanto. "When I joined Recca we were trying to make a professional team, I had just finished college and my parents wanted me to find a job because they didn't understand esports and didn't support me 100%," he says. His time in the Indonesian squad would be short-lived as TYLOO came calling in March 2017.
BnTeT's parents took some convincing to let the player move abroad; in the end, it was the name brand of the biggest organization in China that convinced them to sign off on it. "I explained to my parents that esports are huge, especially in China, and that TYLOO was the No.1 organization there," he recalls. “I showed them their history, the audiences, and I opened their minds. They said I could try it out because I had been playing the game for so long and they knew it was my hobby, so when TYLOO approached me they gave me their support."
The approach itself was fairly standard. HaoWen "somebody" Xu sent BnTeT a message on Steam asking if he would be interested in joining, and a deal was struck following conversations with the TYLOO management. Accompanied by his brother, BnTeT went to China to play his first event with his new team, the China Cup, where he averaged a 1.51 rating en route to the title. "My brother was there with me for two weeks, then he went back and I stayed with the team. It was a new experience for me to live in another country, away from home, eight or nine months of the year."
BnTeT’s biggest challenges and most exciting moments were still ahead, as joining a team that regularly won Asian qualifiers meant he would be able to go play the biggest LANs in the world and face top opposition. "Going to international events was a new experience and I was very excited about getting to play against teams that I could only watch on Twitch before," he says. "I learned a lot playing against them, everyone at that level is very professional and has really good skill. I started studying teams to see their mistakes, and learned how to play against the tier 1 and 2 teams in the world."
TYLOO often had good results regionally and were one of the best teams in Asia on a regular basis, but that did not mean that they had the ingredients to make deep runs at international events. More often than not, they crashed out of tournaments in the group stage, which led to frustration. The trips to Europe and North America did help, however, even if the team didn’t get to play as many maps on LAN as they would have liked. "It was very easy to find teams to practice against in Europe," BnTeT says. "After finishing a match we could keep playing against other teams, while in Asia it can be hard to find teams to practice against sometimes, especially on the weekend. In Europe we could always get good practice, and it was always against strong opponents, which allowed us to learn new things after every practice."
TYLOO took some time to adapt to top-flight Counter-Strike, but there were important personal victories tallied by BnTeT and his teammates. "It's hard to choose between the FACEIT Major and IEM Sydney,” he answers when inquired about his fondest memory with the Chinese team. "But I think I would choose the FACEIT Major because we became the first team in Asia to make it to the top-16 stage at a Major [Editor's note: Wolves had made it to ESL One Cologne 2014, but it was through an Indian qualifier]. We won one match in that stage, which also got us an invite to the following Major. That was a very big achievement for me and I think for TYLOO, as well. Everybody in Asia was really supporting me and they were proud of what we had achieved." The IEM Sydney run mentioned had come a few months earlier, when TYLOO were roaming around the top 10 in the world rankings. They managed to make it all the way to the semi-finals in Australia without dropping a map against SK, Cloud9 and Renegades before falling to FaZe.
BnTeT proved he could roll with the punches during his time with the Chinese outfit, taking on the in-game leading job despite deep-seated communication issues plaguing TYLOO. "I never imagined I would become the IGL because I can't speak Mandarin well, "he says. “I had been the second caller in Recca and I have a lot of ideas, so I tried to call in TYLOO, but it was really hard because I had to focus on my own game but also translate my ideas using very basic English and Mandarin callouts. When xccurate was on the team we also spoke Indonesian if we were in 2vs1 or 2vs2 situations and we were the last alive, or if we played on the same site on the CT side."
During his time in TYLOO, BnTeT found a passionate fan base, who would turn up whenever they were playing to cheer on the team, in the good and the bad moments. He also speaks of TYLOO in glowing terms and is thankful to the organization for making the transition to Gen.G as smooth as possible. The move to North America will be his biggest since he broke out of Indonesia and marks another fresh start for the trailblazer, who is hoping to create a pathway that other talented Asian players can follow. "I always wanted to play internationally, and playing in North America was my goal," he says. "I had received some offers before Gen.G but the situations and timing didn't allow it to happen, so I couldn't take those offers. Moving to North America is going to be a new challenge, a new environment. I don't know what it's like to live in North America or the situation there, so it's going to be exciting. Doing this was my goal so now I'm just happy and grateful that I can finally make the move."
The transition to Gen.G, where he will play under daps, also means that BnTeT will be able to focus on his own game again. "I am happy that I do not have to be the IGL," he admits with a sense of relief. "The players in the team have more experience than me, especially automatic, who is a Major winner. koosta, daps and s0m are also really good players, and I will learn a lot from them, too." BnTeT noted that the move from Indonesia to China ended up being easy because the culture and food are similar in both countries, and while living in the United States will be a whole new experience, he hopes that he will be welcomed as warmly by his teammates, organization, and fans as he was when he joined TYLOO.
By mid-January, BnTeT will have already arrived in his new home. Back in Asia, the grind will continue for teams and players in a region that is still figuring out the best way to get past technical, geographical, and linguistic hurdles. Qualifiers will come and go, earning the strongest Asian sides slots at international events to play against the best teams in the world and travel to the most competitive regions, where good and plentiful practice is available. And even though it doesn't seem like any team will be able to compete at the highest level anytime soon, especially as TYLOO will have to adapt to life without their main star, now, at the very least, every kid wielding a mouse and a keyboard will have an example of success to follow and can dream of becoming a star abroad.