kNgV-: "Playing with this team has been very pleasing"
The 28-year-old discusses what went wrong with the previous roster, the recent results and his relationship with the organisation.
It’s 10 am in Belgrade, and MIBR have just arrived at Relog Media — their training facility during this sojourn in the Serbian capital. Vito "kNgV-" Giuseppe hops on a quick video call before his team begin another long day of practice.
MIBR have been working against the clock since this roster was hurriedly assembled in late October, trying to cram as much practice time as possible. The goal is to give fans a reason to feel good again after the shocking and absolute disintegration of the previous team, both inside the game and in the public eye.
The hard work seems to be paying off. The team are through to the playoff stage of Flashpoint 2 and will fancy their chances in the BLAST Premier Fall Showdown after beating rival FURIA and taking a map off Astralis and G2. It’s early days, but MIBR’s fans are at least being offered a chance to dream — something kNgV- can relate to as he’s still chasing his first title with the famed organisation.
“I think our first results have been very good, given the circumstances,” he says. “We had never played together and I think we have really surprised a lot of people. This roster was put together at the last minute so that we could play BLAST and Flashpoint, but we’ve been able to put as much energy as possible into it. Playing with this team has been very pleasing, and I believe we can win one of those tournaments.”
It’s impossible not to notice how much kNgV- seems to have matured over the last couple of years. Once a player who was no stranger to controversy or to making headlines for the wrong reasons, he is now the skipper and the voice of reason in this weird, alternative version of MIBR without any of the Major-winning players. The captain role, which he inherited from Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo while the previous team were still competing, strangely suits him well, even though he says that he’s still coming to grips with it.
“This is something I had never done before, so this has been new for me,” says the 28-year-old. “I think there’s a leader in me and now that is being put into practice. In the old MIBR, when FalleN kind of handed me the captaincy, I think I wasn’t able to properly explain the things I wanted to do. In this team of younger players, I think they have really been able to listen to me so it has been a very good experience. I think I’m doing well as a captain, I am happy in this role and I want to continue doing it.”
As MIBR enter the do-or-die stages of Flashpoint and BLAST Premier, one question lingers: is this just the proverbial honeymoon period or is there real change? Raphael "cogu" Camargo, the manager and coach, has talked up the benefits of the team’s aggressive, controlled-chaos style which doesn’t hold anyone back. Opponents have already started adjusting, but kNgV- says that he’s trying to keep things fresh all the time to prevent his team from being figured out.
“I think we need to improve our executions. We’re still making a few mistakes sometimes, but it’s a process,” he explains. “We are learning from our mistakes. We had only one week to prepare for the match against Astralis, so we adopted a style that, instead of being very tactical or complex, had a lot to do with communication and companionship. If someone wants to make a play, then the team will act accordingly, instead of having people making plays by themselves. I think everyone understood that philosophy in which everyone helps each other, and I think it’s working out.
“It’s important that we keep mixing up our game and I think we have been doing that in our games a lot. We have surprised a few teams. For example, we just played five games on Nuke and we played a different type of game each time, and that makes it harder for opponents to have a read on us. ‘Which Nuke are we going to play?’ We are in this process of making those changes, we analyse the match that we are going to play and then we draw some conclusions. ‘Let’s attack more this side of the map, or let’s play more through here…’ I think this has been very good for the team.”
Morale is quite high in the MIBR camp and everyone has been playing their part in the server. Alencar "trk" Rossato and Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles seem to be rediscovering their form, and Leonardo "leo_drk" Oliveira and Vinicius "vsm" Moreira are carrying the weight of expectations that come from playing for Brazil’s biggest team, with by far the most passionate fans, with class.
leo_drk continues to impress with his ability to open up rounds and willingness to sacrifice himself for the good of the team, while vsm is pure talent waiting to be unleashed. Every game that the DETONA star plays is a painful reminder of how Valve’s authoritarian system could be robbing one of the game’s most exciting talents of a bright future.
“Leo is a great player, he is someone who has surprised me a lot because he has a lot of personality, he is someone who calls plays and guides the team when necessary,” kNgV- says. “In my eyes, that’s very important, so leo is without a doubt a top player. He just needs more experience because he has a lot of room to grow.
“vsm is undoubtedly a big talent. He plays the exact same way all the time, whether it's against Astralis or a Brazilian team. He’s always calm, you can see that he’s never nervous. I truly hope from the bottom of my heart that Valve unbans him. He deserves that.”
MIBR are fun and respectable again. The dark cloud hanging over this iconic name has been lifted. Maybe, just maybe, they can even end the year with the Flashpoint title in the bag. If nothing else, the early signs are promising, which begs the question: how can this team be competitive when nothing seemed to work for the previous one?
“I think that this team is more organised and every player here has a voice,” kNgV- notes. “That is something that we all feel good about and that didn’t happen in the old MIBR. There wasn’t enough freedom for everyone to play, to speak their mind, and that is something that really hurt the team, I think.
"Since everything is new now, we all have a lot of freedom, and I give everyone the chance to speak up. I think that has played a big part in our results. And then there’s also this energy in the team… I think it’s easy to see that we are really eager to win. I’m not saying that the other team didn’t want to win, but it was different. I think the priorities were different.”
For now, MIBR’s players are looking to make the most of their time together and just enjoy the game, for the path ahead is unclear. The MIBR organisation still has not revealed its plans for 2021, but reports suggest that, of the trio of stand-ins, the team could be looking to keep at least leo_drk.
After being very critical of MIBR for meddling in team affairs, kNgV- suggests that he and the organisation have buried the hatchet. It’s anyone’s guess what the team will look like next year, but the 28-year-old admits that he wishes to be the face of the future MIBR squad in this new role that he’s taken to with gusto.
“I have a good relationship with MIBR, we have spoken a lot, especially after the departures of TACO and fer,” he says. “I think our relationship has got a bit tighter, but we haven’t spoken about what will happen with the team. We agreed that we would talk about it later, after the tournaments. I still don’t know what will happen. I want to continue here and be the captain of this team.”