FalleN: "A dream coming true for us would be being able to play on a stage again"
Imperial's captain spoke to HLTV.org about their start to the Challengers Stage in Antwerp and shared his hopes for the future.
The first day of PGL Major Antwerp's Challenger Stage has come to an end, a day which Imperial ended with a 1-1 record after dropping their opening match to Spirit before recovering with a win over Liquid.
The Brazilian legends are playing in the tournament without their coach Luis "peacemaker" Tadeu behind them as the 34-year-old was handed a notice of charge from the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) ahead of the start of the Major, with Valve barring him and two other coaches from attending the event.
To get some insight into how Imperial's opening day went, how the team are developing together, and what their focus has been on since their formation, we spoke to Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo, who also shared his thoughts on peacemaker's ESIC ban and how the team is faring without him in tow.
FalleN, congrats on the win, you now have a 1-1 record after beating Liquid here - can you walk me through that match and how it went down for you?
The match against Liquid, it felt like we got things under control after winning the first force round after we lost the pistol, it helped us a lot. During the half it felt like we were doing crucial mistakes that got the match closer, we lost two ecos, one of them they did a lane explosion, and the second one we had a situation where the bomb was stuck in CT spawn, we should have never lost that. It was kinda a misplay on that one, it felt bad. It felt like we were letting them come back into the game in the second half, but overall fer and boltz were playing so well, and we got some very good rounds on the CT side as well.
When we went to the T side, we didn't have much problems there, just playing the situations that are being shown to us. It wasn't too strategic at all, we were just feeling the game, doing some plays, people were communicating and helped with some calls, everyone was on point so the game was kind of comfortable.
Yeah, this game went a lot better than the one at the start of the day, where you lost to Spirit 6-16. What went wrong in that match compared to this one, because you looked completely different here?
Definitely the situations we played against Spirit, we had much more of an advantage against them than we had against Liquid in terms of 4vs3s, situations where we had the upper hand but we threw them away somehow. Some retakes could've been much better executed, even the pistol round was so unlucky, the bomb was dropped in CT spawn but we didn't know that because there was a small edge on the floor there, and all of us had no vision of it, so the T side were playing like we knew we had the bomb CT, but we didn't know it was there, so the situation got a little bit weird because of it. For sure from a spectator POV, it was like, 'they know the bomb is CT, they're holding it,' but we didn't know at all, so it was a kinda weird pistol round.
There were so many unlucky situations like that in the first game, and the communication wasn't on point too, there was some utility usage that we did poorly, there were some opportunities to drop a smoke to a friend and then power some situations that we didn't. Communication wasn't on point in the first game and we got punished for that.
You touched on it already, but boltz and fer were playing really well in this Liquid match, and fer in general has been a really good performer for you all. What's he doing to put up these kind of performances? If I recall correctly, he doesn't tend to DM too much or anything like that.
Yeah, fer is more like a natural, for me he is like NAF in terms of the outside part of the game. He just knows what he is doing a lot of the time, even though their styles are completely the opposite, NAF is much more of a lurker and fer much more of an entry, finding gaps and stuff like that. Outside the game they're pretty similar, so with fer you get what he has every time, he can deliver, he has been proving that in the games that we have been playing the whole year.
A lot of doubters are wondering whether he is going to be able to do that against the better teams, and I think he did a great job today against Liquid as a first start for him. I think he's a complete player, he knows a lot about the game, he has great aim, and he has the personality to take the risks and do the plays, he doesn't shut down from the pressure and that's what makes him a good player.
What was the preparation like for the team coming into the event, were you bootcamping somewhere?
Our life has been crazy. When we first decided to do this project, we thought we'd be living in North America, we actually have a gaming house there but we've never went there, it's been there for three months in Florida. Every time we plan something, a tournament shows up, or the RMR changes rules and then we have to play in Brazil.
A lot of things have been going on, and we have been on the circuit since February, since the day we started the team we've been on the road. We've had maybe eight to ten days off or something like that, that's pretty much it. We've been bootcamping or staying together for a tournament in Brazil, or going to the Kinguin facility in Poland to play more bootcamps. We've been on the road full-time, and I'm very exhausted at the moment, but it's a Major, we've got to give it our all.
I wanted to touch on the in-game leadership situation, the last time we talked to VINI he'd mentioned that he and boltz were helping out with the calling a bit. What is that dynamic like, what are they bringing to the table to help you call?
I think in the very first stages of the team, because boltz, fnx, and fer weren't playing for a long time, especially fnx, we had to update ourselves a little bit, and in some regards a lot. Some of those updates, VINI came with a different perspective, a different overall look into the game, and that was helping us grow in some aspects. Inside the game, VINI and boltz do most of the calling with me, when we need more voices, we need more things, they're giving me inputs, even inside the rounds, giving some ideas, but that is kind of shared around the team too. Like today against Liquid, fer was giving a lot of input.
The way I like to structure the team is that not everything relies on me understanding and calling absolutely everything, because it's just impossible to play the AWP like that in that situation, so the team shares that responsilbity with me a lot.
How would the dynamic compare to how it was on Liquid, since there were some IGL overlap issues on that team?
The biggest difference is that Imperial, we're more willing to do stuff that might not be the best option at the moment, but we're still willing to do it the best we can to make it work, while on Liquid sometimes if we would not be playing with what ideally would be the best option, there would be a little bit of stress around it already. That would make people not comfortable playing the game.
So the biggest difference is the mindset before the strategy part, and working with the strategy part, and that's the reason I decided to move back to a Brazilian project with people that I know have this mentality, because that's important to my calling style. That's the biggest difference, the way people behave when not the best things are being called, or not the best idea is showing up.
You also touched on some of the doubters of the team earlier. As the oldest team in attendance here, what's the perspective been for you going into this event with much of the public not really expecting you to make it deep?
We have been there before. When I say that, it's not an absolute guarantee that we're going to be able to be the best team in the world again, or win titles again, but we have been there where people don't have any faith in us. That happened already in 2014 and 2015, we had been going for international tournaments and no one gave a damn about our team. We were growing game by game and getting a better sense of how to play this game, and eventually we got there.
The doubters were already there at the beginning, so at the moment I don't really care much, even though I find it very funny because there is always an excuse. Before, it was 'they're not going to make it to the Major, they're not going to be competitive,' and then we made it to the Major and now it's 'they're going to be 0-3,' and now we're not 0-3, so now it's 'they're not gonna qualify,' and if we qualify we're not going to go to the semis, and it keeps growing, the narrative just changes.
I prefer much more thinking about the people that are supporting us, the Brazilian guys man, they get the message, that this team is together for much more reasons than trying to be the best in the world. We're changing our community again, we're moving work there, we're doing a lot of things that help the community to grow even more, and we're doing good content for people that like to get going with CS. There's much more that we can do together as a group than just willing to be the best in the world, even though that is what we're trying to do, working non-stop since February. Overall it's just this feeling that we're doing the best that we can to grow ourselves as players again, and if we're going to be able to do that or not, only time will tell.
That was going to be my next question actually, how have the fans been reacting to the team locally?
The fans are amazing, we definitely have the best fans in the world. I have been playing this game since 2003, so Counter-Strike is my life. People have been following CS in Brazil for so long, and generally following myself as well. Other people in the team are in the same situation, fnx is older than me, he was winning a world title in 2006. Think about magixx who we just played, how old was he in 2006? fnx was already lifting trophies.
There's so much history, and it's kinda prestigious to watch a team like that because in a few years, there won't be any 1.6 players left that are still playing the game, like people have to enjoy those last guys who made this transition because in 5-7 years, all we'll have is CS:GO history, everyone else will be stepping down, so it's kinda cool to see different generations being able to perform at a top level, as we're demonstrating right now even though it's not the best, best level you can as a team, but we're on the way there.
Obviously we have to touch on the fact that you don't have peacemaker here, he was sanctioned by ESIC just before the event — how has not having him here affected you so far?
It sucks. We've been working with our coach since February, and he's the guy who has been doing a lot of work before the match for us, he's with the team, he's part of the team, and it sucks to now have to deal with this new situation where we don't know what's going to happen. It really sucks. All of this ESIC lately, the things that they're doing, I completely don't agree with it.
I heard about this rumor of something going out about some coaches, I heard it was like dozens of coaches, like 50 coaches, three weeks ago, and I was like oh, nothing is showing up, I guess they are waiting for the Major to finish so they can conclude what's going on and make the punishments they have to do and stuff like that. But then they come out with it two days before the Major, that's unacceptable, we couldn't even change the coach we had in position. Like if someone from us gets sick, we don't have a sixth player to put in, so they're putting people in a very difficult situation for no reason.
They could delay for the Major, I don't think any participant here would be butthurt that someone was not banned for a round lock where they had vision over something, like I don't think anybody would care about that. It hurts more than helps doing that before the Major, and secondarily, I think that the timeframe for the ban, there's something wrong about it, because if I would be behind it... I think the people who consciously decided to get bugged, like intentionally put themselves in the bugged position, those people should be the ones that are getting the most punished, because they decided to do it. If you're a coach and then you suddenly get in a bugged situation, you can't always realize what you're going to do.
Then you gotta be honest with yourself, would you really quit as soon as you see it without knowing what it is? I can't say that for myself. I can guarantee I wouldn't stay in the server or find myself trying to exploit it and get in bugged positions, but to say I wouldn't be there for one round and understand what is going on, without ever hearing of it before, I doubt so. It's the first time we're seeing it, so there is too much judgement on something that happened to the people, I think it's too much to expect everyone to instantly leave the server without even knowing what it is.
Lastly, what are the expectations for you now that you're 1-1, what are you hoping to accomplish at the end of this tournament?
Honestly a dream coming true for us would be being able to play on a stage again, just imagining ourselves being able to touch hands and look to ourselves playing on a big stage for a Major again. That would be a dream scenario, and to do that we gotta go with three victories here, we need to work on this 1-1 scenario, gotta go to the Bo3s later and show what we can do, and that's it, let's see how it goes. Step by step we're going to try to get to the stage.