yuurih: "We want the next tournament season to be even better than the first"
2019 was a year with new highs for FURIA. The Brazilian team, who had moved to the United States in the middle of 2018, burst onto the world stage with deep runs at DreamHack Masters Dallas and at the ECS Season 7 Finals, also picking up titles in Los Angeles, Helsinki and Hong Kong, and attending their first Major. Perhaps just as impressive as that initial burst of success was the fact that the team managed to reinvent itself later in the year with the signing of Henrique "HEN1" Teles after its system had been figured out by opponents.
The highlight of the first tournament season of 2020 was the undefeated campaign in DreamHack Masters Spring - North America. It was a much-needed title after FURIA had come up short in the final of DreamHack Open Anaheim and ESL One: Road to Rio despite looking like the strongest team throughout both competitions — losing both series to Gen.G, who were the Brazilians' kryptonite during the first months of the year.
"We have always had issues facing Gen.G, and it’s very hard to play against them," says Yuri "yuurih" Santos, who has been FURIA’s top performer in 2020, with an average rating of 1.18. "We could have started off the year well, but we came in second at DreamHack Open.
"After losing that final, to be the champion of a really, really good tournament, one of the best there is, over all those teams that we used to struggle against… It’s very good, you know? It’s very gratifying."
The victory in the DreamHack Masters tournament propelled FURIA to their highest-ever ranking, No 4, but the team didn’t stay there long: the following week, they dropped down to fifth in the rankings after finishing in third place in the BLAST Premier Spring Americas Finals. The season ended on a sour note for the Brazilians, who finished in sixth place in cs_summit 6, leaving them outside the qualification zone for the next Major heading into the Fall RMR.
"We really dropped the ball [against Cloud9], we knew that this match was very important, perhaps even more important than the other ones that we played, because if we won, we would get ahead [in the RMR rankings], putting some pressure on them," yuurih explains.
"We will practice hard for the next RMR tournament. If there’s a Major in Brazil, we have to be there, right?"
The likelihood of Brazil — or any other country, for that matter — hosting a Counter-Strike Major in 2020 is miniscule as the coronavirus still rages all over the world. ESL One Cologne, which FURIA were due to attend, was the most recent LAN event to be scrapped and shifted to an online setting, and more tournaments could follow. yuurih watches helplessly from afar as the number of cases in his homeland continues to swell, and he feels the pain of Brazilian fans, who were ready to turn out en masse in Rio de Janeiro to celebrate what was supposed to be a historical year for Counter-Strike in the country.
"Sometimes, I ask my parents how things are going in Brazil, and they say that it’s still pretty ugly," yuurih says. "Here in Miami, businesses were opening, but then the number of cases began to spike and they had to close again. If things are ugly here, in Brazil it’s much worse, right?
"I think it’s very unlikely that Brazil hosts a Major this year, I think it will take some time for this situation to be fixed. We still hope that there will be a Major in Brazil, perhaps without spectators, I don’t know… This is every Brazilian player’s dream, and unfortunately coronavirus happened."
One of the biggest talking points in esports in recent months has been player wellness, with several players across multiple games complaining of mental and physical exhaustion. During the break, most players spend time with their families and loved ones, but that’s not the case for FURIA, who decided against returning to Brazil due to the pandemic. yuurih admits that everyone in the team is feeling a bit homesick, but he stresses that burnout is not a concern, praising the system that has been put in place by coach Nicholas "guerri" Nogueira.
"When it comes to our holidays, we get a bit sad for sure," yuurih says. "Normally, we only see our families twice a year, but this year we will probably only see them once. It’s sad because being away gets hard sometimes, but we know that this is something that we cannot control. Here in the United States, we kind of have a family. [FURIA owner André] Akkari is here with his family, so we always end up doing stuff every day like playing footvolley. We are always doing things, so it’s fine. I just wanted to be with my parents, but it’s not possible.
"guerri does a great job when it comes to managing our practice sessions and our tournaments, so everyone is happy. At the start of the year, we said that we had to improve, and improving is certainly very exhausting. There were days when our scrims ended and I just wanted to sleep, I didn’t want to see CS anymore. So it’s been great to disconnect a bit. I already feel like playing again, but we will enjoy this time off a little bit more. We will return to work a few days before the player break ends. We’ll do something together and start preparations before other teams because we want this season to be even better than the first one. We will give our best."
Before the break, FURIA's players found themselves in a difficult situation as they felt the ire of Brazilian fans during a nail-biting derby with MIBR. It started late on Inferno as MIBR complained of server issues and asked for a crucial round to be replayed. After nearly an hour-long discussion, the round was eventually restarted, but the bad blood persisted and spilt over to social media, where MIBR's players and fans accused FURIA of showing a lack of sportsmanship.
"After that match, I stayed off social media, I even stopped interacting with MIBR's players, so I practically didn't see anything that was going on," he says. "I only saw guerri talking about it, he even made a video about it. I also saw that FalleN apologised for posting the video. He did what every good professional would have done. He is someone who has been an inspiration for me since I was a kid.
"We always admired those guys and then something like this happened. Of course it's sad, but it happens. For me, it's in the past, I don't want to think about it. I wish the best of luck to them, especially to kNg, who just became a father. May he have peace in this new chapter of his life."