Who is saffee, paiN's late bloomer?

The 26-year-old talks about his rapid rise to the upper echelons of the Brazilian scene as his team, paiN, are about to compete in DreamHack Open January.

Rafael "⁠saffee⁠" Costa's first experience with competitive Counter-Strike dates back to 2011, when he attended some Brazilian CS 1.6 events. The 26-year-old, however, quickly had to put esports aside to focus on his education as he wanted to become an engineer. It wasn't until March 2018, when he saw TeamOne eliminate the Major-winning lineup of Cloud9 at the WESG 2017 World Finals and grab an unlikely fourth place at the $1.5 million tournament, that he began thinking about picking up the game again.

Later that year, with help from his father and brother, he bought a PC and made a pledge to become a pro within a year. "I was studying and playing football for a college in the United States, but Counter-Strike appeared in my life again, and my passion for the game prevailed," saffee said. His goal wasn’t easy by any means, especially because he had played CS:GO just once in all those years, in a Zombie mod server in 2014.

He left everything behind to focus on the game and started playing in FACEIT hubs. In three months, he eventually qualified for FPL-C, in which he got to play with up-and-coming North American players, and was signed by New England Whalers in April 2019, representing that organisation until the end of the year. After some middling results, he returned to his homeland to play for Paquetá, an esports organization created by football star Lucas Paquetá, who currently plays for Lyon.

saffee joined paiN in mid-2020

saffee had always been a natural rifler since his CS 1.6 days, but he became an AWPer on Paquetá. His numbers immediately exploded as he averaged a 1.27 rating in the first months of 2020 to draw the attention of paiN. The giant Brazilian organisation wanted to send their team to compete in the United States and were in need of a new sniper because Paulo "⁠land1n⁠" Felipe couldn't secure a U.S. visa.

Although many would say that saffee is mechanically gifted because of his meteoric rise, he assured that it's the result of his hard work. "I know I’m still a rookie and I have so much to learn," he said. "When I started playing again, I knew because of my age that I had to dedicate 100 per cent as there were younger people with more experience than me.

"I think the amount of time I have dedicated and the will to learn the game as quickly as possible made me get here. Nothing has come easy for me."

Brazil has produced some of the most aggressive AWPers in the scene such as Gabriel "⁠FalleN⁠" Toledo and Vito "⁠kNgV-⁠" Giuseppe, but saffee looked at international players when he started playing with the AWP, modelling his playstyle after Mathieu "⁠ZywOo⁠" Herbaut, a sniper who constantly creates space for his team, which is a characteristic that you can also see in the Brazilian’s repertoire.

"saffee’s strength is definitely his aggressiveness, even though we’re used to playing with him, sometimes he still surprises us with some of his aggressive plays," paiN captain Vinicios "⁠PKL⁠" Coelho said. "One thing he can improve is to know when he should play aggressively and when he should play cautiously, which is the hardest thing for an AWPer.

"saffee is the AWPer with the most potential that I have ever played with, for sure. He became a sniper just some time ago and has been improving quite fast. I’m sure that he’ll be among the best and most famous AWPers soon."

paiN won ESEA Open Season 35 in December, just three months after moving to Last Vegas, to earn a spot in the Advanced division. Last week, the team qualified for the $30,000 DreamHack Open January North America, which will be their biggest tournament on U.S. soil. to date. saffee, who has averaged a 1.31 rating since paiN landed in North America, believes that the level of MDL teams is "very similar" to what he was used to in Brazil. He is confident that he will keep playing well once the team qualify for bigger tournaments and start facing better teams.

"If the team are doing well, I think my numbers will be great," he said. "Of course, we have much to improve as a team, but everyone is eager to do it and to start facing the tier-one teams. I’ll never be afraid of anyone. We’ll play to win, regardless of the opponent. paiN is a big organization and we’re working harder to be prepared when the time comes."

The Brazilian scene recently went through a major shuffle at the top, with new teams emerging and some established sides making minor adjustments. If saffee keeps putting up great numbers, it's only a matter of time before a bigger team comes knocking, but saffee is focused on helping paiN achieve their goals in 2021.

"I want to keep playing my game and I want to help paiN qualify for bigger tournaments," he said. "Everybody in the team is making sacrifices, we left our country to pursue a dream and I believe we have what it takes to compete against the best in North America."

Brazil Vinicios 'PKL' Coelho
Vinicios 'PKL' Coelho
Age:
27
Team:
Rating 1.0:
0.98
Maps played:
807
KPR:
0.67
DPR:
0.68
Brazil Rafael 'saffee' Costa
Rafael 'saffee' Costa
Age:
26
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.24
Maps played:
79
KPR:
0.83
DPR:
0.61
France Mathieu 'ZywOo' Herbaut
Mathieu 'ZywOo' Herbaut
Age:
20
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.28
Maps played:
773
KPR:
0.86
DPR:
0.62
Brazil Gabriel 'FalleN' Toledo
Gabriel 'FalleN' Toledo
Age:
30
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.08
Maps played:
1350
KPR:
0.70
DPR:
0.60
Brazil Vito 'kNgV-' Giuseppe
Vito 'kNgV-' Giuseppe
Age:
28
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.13
Maps played:
748
KPR:
0.77
DPR:
0.65
Brazil Paulo 'land1n' Felipe
Paulo 'land1n' Felipe
Age:
27
Team:
Rating 1.0:
1.05
Maps played:
631
KPR:
0.68
DPR:
0.61
I don't know !
2021-01-27 20:00
28 replies
#17
 | 
Germany Jermen
who dis?
2021-01-27 20:02
2 replies
HE'S PAIN'S LATE BOOMER
2021-01-27 20:12
1 reply
#59
 | 
Germany Jermen
Calm down mens
2021-01-27 20:28
next s1mple
2021-01-27 20:05
wtf 26 years old
2021-01-27 20:09
6 replies
#80
arT | 
Brazil joroca
I don't understand all this ageism in e-sport.
2021-01-27 21:10
5 replies
I think aging in esports comes down more to the older players not having the same motivation as before. They might also have other things they prioritise that younger players may not as much (e.g starting a family)
2021-01-27 21:38
People have this delusion that you lose reflexes by 30yo... when in fact it's more like 50-60yo. Like the other commenter said, it's about the fact that you can't huddle for 12 hours in a dark room playing FPS all day when you have a wife and kids.
2021-01-28 05:39
3 replies
#132
 | 
Portugal antCB
"Like the other commenter said, it's about the fact that you can't huddle for 12 hours in a dark room playing FPS all day when you have a wife and kids." when your livelihood depends on that, you better do it.
2021-01-28 11:29
1 reply
Much harder, tho. It's already hard when you have an office job and work from home, nevermind when you are "just playing games all day". Social pressure is a bitch. FalleN was awping like crazy in all but one of the Liquid games this season, but if you look at his Instagtam, this is clearly his "final push"... then he wants to have kids and go have a stable business.
2021-01-29 19:11
if you take care of yourself like everyone in tier 1 of CS does outside of practice you can keep your reflexes to 35-40 and even once you slow down a bit you probably have so much game sense and experience to fall back on you can still win
2021-01-30 01:33
#89
arT | 
Brazil Ferba
dude, u must change your nickname :(
2021-01-27 21:49
Change ur name bro XD
2021-01-27 21:55
15 replies
Why would i?
2021-01-27 21:56
14 replies
13 replies
ONLINE CS AND BO1 HAHAHAHAHAHAHA irrelevant
2021-01-27 21:58
12 replies
still won, online and lan. you should put "MIBR_NEVER_WON_AGAINST_FAZE_IN_LAN_WITH_BO3" at least.
2021-01-27 22:00
Just change it.
2021-01-27 22:12
10 replies
Why would i?
2021-01-27 22:13
9 replies
Because you're telling us a lie.
2021-01-27 22:14
8 replies
Not really, no one cares about online cs or bo1s
2021-01-27 22:14
7 replies
I do. Now, please...
2021-01-27 22:16
5 replies
I don't
2021-01-27 22:28
3 replies
#109
 | 
Brazil SecondKS
I yes
2021-01-27 23:35
whole year of online cs and he doesnt care ok
2021-01-28 03:23
I do
2021-01-28 03:30
Just let the guy be happy, when you think inside of your mind why this guy is trolling my MM remember. This kind of guy exist evry where. Not just in Brazil. :) And MIBR_NEVER_WON_AGAINST_FAZE is one of them
2021-01-28 12:24
Do you ever find yourself wondering why it's so easy to bait Brazilians? Didn't even have to say anything, your username alone was enough to get them.
2021-01-29 12:11
who
2021-01-27 20:01
2 replies
saffee
2021-01-27 20:02
Next s1mple
2021-01-27 20:04
#7
 | 
United Kingdom KhT
idk
2021-01-27 20:01
new hltv article writer?
2021-01-27 20:02
ok
2021-01-27 20:02
dude's a great player, showed great performances in BR
2021-01-27 20:02
#13
boltz | 
Brazil xxAxx
Who? Em português: Nunca nem vi
2021-01-27 20:02
2 replies
next s1mple > zywoo
2021-01-27 20:05
+1 KKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK
2021-01-27 20:06
BRAZILIAN ZYWOO
2021-01-27 20:02
1 reply
#116
 | 
Brazil yalamix
+1
2021-01-28 00:54
who?
2021-01-27 20:02
2 replies
zy
2021-01-27 20:05
1 reply
+1
2021-01-27 20:19
very good question
2021-01-27 20:02
#20
 | 
Germany ConAction
Yeah this guy is so insane finally he gets some attention no one spoke about him before this now people probably FINALLY will!
2021-01-27 20:02
Who?
2021-01-27 20:02
1 reply
zy
2021-01-27 22:05
typical awp abuser saffee had always been a natural rifler since his CS 1.6 days, but he became an AWPer on Paquetá. His numbers immediately exploded as he averaged a 1.27 rating in the first months of 2020
2021-01-27 20:04
6 replies
+1
2021-01-27 20:04
A low IQ individual shouldn't call himself "official_iq_tester"
2021-01-27 20:06
if that was true, six3r would be a god
2021-01-27 20:09
+1
2021-01-27 20:20
awp is OP and that's valve's fault, not his
2021-01-27 20:31
1 reply
I mean, everyone on server its able to buy an AWP, just buy it too if u think the enemy are abusing, than abuse it too. But the problem its that: there's no abuse without skills lmao
2021-01-28 22:48
#25
 | 
United States squidos
nicee, solid up n coming team
2021-01-27 20:04
i dont know who
2021-01-27 20:05
#33
 | 
Switzerland Saixd96
Lol
2021-01-27 20:05
dont know
2021-01-27 20:05
really impressed by him when i saw him play, fpl-c in just 3 months is just insane
2021-01-27 20:06
good question
2021-01-27 20:06
never heard of him
2021-01-27 20:07
Still going to lose to triumph today hahaha Eggpeak too stronk
2021-01-27 20:08
#47
 | 
Croatia lucubista
saffee smurfing in NA , this guy is insaneee
2021-01-27 20:14
god saffee
2021-01-27 20:21
Wtf that's insane for a player that only started playing in 2018.
2021-01-27 20:24
This would be easily a forum thread title lmao But yeah, he's pretty good, feels weird that he didn't appeared earlier in the brazilian scene
2021-01-27 20:25
4 replies
#131
 | 
World waltsuu
he started in 2018. how much faster than you go?
2021-01-28 08:23
3 replies
oh I see, that makes sense then. btw, faster in what?
2021-01-28 13:27
2 replies
#140
 | 
World waltsuu
getting from 0 to pro level i guess. kinda funny to see its possible. set goals, work hard
2021-01-29 20:37
1 reply
yeah you're right, 26 y/o and going out there
2021-01-29 20:45
weird title
2021-01-27 20:26
#58
 | 
Australia popoto
GOD
2021-01-27 20:26
Paqueta created by the same name footballer? wow I didn't know this xD
2021-01-27 20:28
Bloomer or boomer?
2021-01-27 20:33
ok bloomer
2021-01-27 20:33
Brazilian device
2021-01-27 20:42
Nice leo, congratz 4 the text
2021-01-27 20:45
#69
 | 
Brazil hugoooo
Crazy to being featured on an HLTV article like this. For sure we will see him joining a better team this year.
2021-01-27 20:46
4 replies
#72
 | 
Brazil Z1DAN
maybe mibr has awper/second awper
2021-01-27 20:53
3 replies
#73
 | 
Brazil hugoooo
They just changed a player... also, yeL is doing ok I don't think they should change anyone
2021-01-27 21:03
2 replies
#104
 | 
Brazil Z1DAN
they want an sixth player
2021-01-27 22:22
1 reply
#105
 | 
Brazil hugoooo
Then he would be perfect!
2021-01-27 22:23
cool
2021-01-27 20:47
even me as a brazilian never heard of him lol
2021-01-27 21:07
#77
 | 
United States B0b3rT
nice for saffee very good plyer
2021-01-27 21:07
awp abuser not impressed
2021-01-27 21:21
Nerf awp ok
2021-01-27 21:34
#87
 | 
Switzerland x676
who cares???
2021-01-27 21:41
2 replies
#110
 | 
Brazil SecondKS
Me
2021-01-27 23:37
1 reply
#111
 | 
Switzerland x676
but you are his cousin
2021-01-27 23:39
Wow i hope he does some good matches
2021-01-27 21:46
#93
 | 
Turkey RENNNDER
<boomer>
2021-01-27 21:57
Do I really need to say why did he bloom? Huehuehue too funny Another article about another awp abuser Not op BTW
2021-01-27 21:58
flp-c in 3 months is insane
2021-01-27 22:25
he plays very well
2021-01-27 23:05
1 reply
+ 1
2021-01-28 02:35
Good luck!!
2021-01-27 23:57
I'm sure he will be a world class player in sometime, this dude is nuts.
2021-01-28 00:17
saffee do safe
2021-01-28 00:27
Good player
2021-01-28 01:29
Saffe Very god it's a new talent and soon some mibr, furia, godsent, call him ...
2021-01-28 02:34
Read everything. Still, who?
2021-01-28 03:10
who is he? another ~top-20 of this year without lans against t1 teams? lul
2021-01-28 07:23
SAFFEE GOD !!!
2021-01-28 23:12
Nice!! Good luck for saffee and pain
2021-01-30 01:34
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