HooXi jokes about fragging concerns: "I feel like I can shoot nothing for six months and we could still win every tournament"
Undergoing an off-season overhaul following a largely disappointing first half to the year, G2 brought in two new members during the summer break, replacing in-game leader Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen with HooXi and Audric "JACKZ" Jug with Justin "jks" Savage.
The Danish in-game leader came into the team from Copenhagen Flames, where he had been transfer listed for nearly three months following the conclusion of PGL Major Antwerp as the team disbanded around him in the wake of Nico "nicoodoz" Tamjidi and Fredrik "roeJ" Jørgensen's departure to fnatic.
Speaking in an in-depth interview for the first time following his move to G2, HooXi was in good spirits when he discussed his departure from the Danish squad and the move to the new team, where he will face several challenges, coming from an underdog side to a lineup with the highest of ambitions.
The 27-year-old addressed those challenges and question marks over whether he will be up to the task, particularly in the fragging department, as he comes in to take over the entry role, according to coach Rémy "XTQZZZ" Quoniam.
Let's get into the period after the news broke that Copenhagen Flames would be transfer listed after the Major. What was it like for you to see some of your teammates go off to new teams while you were still trying to figure out what your future was? How quickly did you realize you'd also be able to land a new home?
I actually got told before we started playing at the Major that roeJ and nicoodoz would leave the team. I always react pretty harshly to stuff like that because I feel like my team is my family — I spend way more time with my team than my family (laughs) — so I obviously got sad.
Actually already during the Major I started getting offers from other teams, and I think I get way more offers than people actually think I do. Maybe because my stats are so bad that people think nobody wants me, I don't know (laughs). I wasn't even that afraid, I feel like one way or another I would land in a good team, so I felt pretty comfortable.
With a lot of offers, was it difficult to decide what you wanted to do, or was G2 always the main option?
I can definitely say with confidence that, in the end, it was easy to pick G2. With the players I have to work with and the organization and stuff like that, it was a pretty easy choice in the end.
XTQZZZ said in our interview with him that he needed to hold long talks to confirm your choice, specifically, for the in-game leader. What was the main point behind those talks? What did you need to sell him on?
I just think it was an introduction talk at first. Obviously, we just talked about how we like to do things in a team, how we like to progress, what playstyle we like. How the relationship between me and him is also really important, and without going into too much detail, it's basically it. It was nothing special, but it's really important to have a good relationship between the coach and the IGL. It's a really important position because it affects the whole team.
How has it been to work alongside him?
I like it a lot. He reminds me a little bit of my time with pita in Flames. He has the same kind of way of doing things that he doesn't want to dictate the way we play and the way I work. He would much rather prefer to make my way of working and playing better, which I like a lot, because then I can actually do the thing I'm good at.
What do you think was your biggest selling point?
I think the playstyle fits a lot with people getting a lot of responsibility and people getting to do what they want to do, both in game and also out of the game. They probably heard from some of the players or coaches I've worked with before and heard that I worked a lot, and I think they like that fact as well, that I'm a hungry, hard-working guy. I'm not that good at saying it myself, so I think they talked to someone else (laughs). I'm not completely sure, I always speak the truth, so I'm not really good at selling myself and stuff that I don't actually do. I don't know what it actually was, but I ended up here, so I'm happy (laughs).
This is a big jump from you, coming from Copenhagen Flames that was viewed as a big underdog, and working with star players that have been around for a while. How do you feel about that challenge?
I think it's a fun challenge. I joke a little bit around with the fact that G2 won as many trophies as Flames in that year, so it doesn't really matter, you know? (laughs) It's no real new pressure for me, it's the same thing.
No, but obviously not making the Major wouldn't be a disaster, but I feel like it would be very disappointing in G2 to not make the Major, so the pressure is, of course, different. But at the same time, I don't really think too much about it. I mostly think about my own expectations and goals for myself, and those goals aren't really dependent on results too much, but more about how much effort I put into things and how much work I put into things.
How are you getting on with calling in English, communicating in English, all that stuff that comes with playing in your first international team?
Yeah, it's definitely a challenge, no doubt. Often my brain still operates in Danish, so if I think about something, I know what I want to say, but it takes some time to get out sometimes. That's obviously a problem, but I think with time it will be better. I already feel better now, speaking English 24/7, basically. It gets better day by day, but for sure a challenge at first.
How much have you had to adapt to what the team needs, what players you have, in terms of your calling style?
Well, I don't really have to adapt that much. I think the guys have a lot of trust in me and the way I want to do things, and it's just about working together and listening to each other, that's what I always do. I try to listen to my players and talk to them about what they like to do, what they feel comfortable with, and I try to put together the big picture after. It's not something crazy, I just maybe spent a few days thinking about "okay, I actually have to lead this team." I just come in as an inexperienced guy compared to these guys, but I still have to be the leader, it's kind of a mismatch, or whatever you wanna say. That took some days to realize, but I think I'm on the right path.
When XTQZZZ spoke about roles in the team he called you an entry. In Copenhagen Flames that wasn't really your forte when it comes to involvement in opening duels and things that are typically associated with entries — how much has that changed in G2?
Compared to the Flames lineup it definitely changed a bit, but previously in my career I've always been the guy running in like a maniac (laughs). It actually fits me quite well. I think that it can be a challenge sometimes, but I like to run in when it doesn't feel nice to run in, if that makes sense. If you're just going in dry, then it's me jumping in like a maniac, but if we're setting up something like really good, where it feels good to run in and there's a good execute behind it, then I want my star players to be running in because they're set up for success. I think it's a good mixture and I'm not really scared about that part, at all.
If you're in that role and making the step up to a different level, there are some question marks and concerns about your fragging ability with the numbers you were putting in in Copenhagen Flames. Do you have any concerns about if you're going to be able to keep up?
Not at all. I feel like I can basically shoot nothing for six months straight and we could still win every tournament (laughs). With the players I have to work with, it doesn't really matter at all. Obviously I would like to do better individually and I've always wanted to, but in the end the most important thing for my role is to make the team work and to see progression. I think that if I can just hold my own a little bit, I think that's more than enough on this team, so I'm not really worried about it at all, no.
How are you approaching BLAST? What's the mindset here?
Well, the mindset is just to get to know each other better. Obviously, it's the first official, and at least for me and I guess for Justin as well, it's completely new. I've been out of the game for a few months now and Justin has been out for I don't know how long, almost a year, I guess? I think it's just getting into the groove and trying to learn how we think, how we react, what the mood is like, all those small things that you need to know. I think we'll learn a lot from this event, and my expectations personally are just to do the best we can and see where it leads us.
How are you feeling after the first week together? Are you comfortable enough to compete against these teams?
I definitely feel comfortable enough. I feel like we could go in as a mix team and I'd still feel kinda comfortable against basically every team in the world. Obviously it would be nice with more time, like if I could get a month of practice that would be great, but I feel like it's not too bad. Every day I can feel that we are going in the right direction, so that helps a lot that you can actually feel the progress.