woxic: "I need to have freedom and make the game-changing calls"
The Turkish sniper says that added in-game responsibility makes him much more comfortable.
Eternal Fire have long been the flag-bearers of Turkish Counter-Strike and their current roster is no different. They are the only Turkish squad in HLTV's ranking, which speaks to how complicated it is to get replacements from feeder teams when needed and has caused much strife in a side that struggled to strike a balance between youth and experience.
In all, a total of eight players and two different coaches, most of whom were recycled members from previous rosters, had worn EF's colors over the past year. Captain Engin "MAJ3R" Küpeli and star AWPer Özgür "woxic" Eker notably departed the squad during that period, only to make unexpected returns months later and contribute to the ever-growing list of unforeseen and abrupt changes the team had to endure.
"In that time, there were many problems, and not ones that happened just in that second. Problems were happening for six or seven months, and in the last lineup, many things just exploded again. We then had to bring two new players again, we had to look for them. That's why I was not mentally ready and I felt tired from it, so I stepped back for a while," reflected woxic about his departure in November 2022. "Then I felt better after a couple of months, and I joined back."
When asked about what convinced him to return to Eternal Fire, the Turkish sniper touched on a bigger responsibility inside the game. "I feel much better now because of what we talked about at the start [of the team], that I need to have freedom and make the game-changing calls. If I peek something, and if I get a kill, I can make a call off of that and these kinds of things. It's much clearer like this, and I'm feeling much more comfortable than before."
Most of Eternal Fire's changes consisted of recycling their former players, which meant that the team's core never strayed far from the Space Soldiers team that put their scene on the map with their two Major appearances in 2018. That was until they signed academy graduate Ali "Wicadia" Haydar Yalçın, who was an instant hit and a much-needed breath of fresh air, woxic says.
"He has so much potential, that's why we were looking for an academy team. When something goes wrong in your main team, you go and look there first. Our coach and team members wanted to try him out, see how he plays, and they saw the potential in him and he was really playing well. When I came back, I saw that he can be one of the best aimers and players in the future for Turkey."
The conversation then switched to the general outlook for the Turkish scene, which hasn't had a breakout superstar since Ismailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş and woxic burst onto the scene. "It's an unfortunate situation in Turkey, it has been like this for seven or eight years. When I was playing and shining alongside XANTARES, there were not many others," lamented woxic. "It's also because of VALORANT, many Turkish players switched to that game when it came out. They were not winning against us or qualifying for big tournaments, and they weren't having good practice."
The 25-year-old then touched on a mindset problem he saw in young Turkish players. "Our players have a different mindset, they think they know everything, and that's what we were facing before as well. Everybody thinks they are playing good and are a tier-one player, which they aren't. And they aren't going to tell you that. They just want you to understand that they are good, but they aren't. In the end, we don't have that many upcoming talents who are listening to the big bros, basically."
Despite woxic's bleak outlook on the current state of his domestic scene, he was much more optimistic for the future and the upcoming release of CS2. "It will help a lot and return some VALORANT players back to CS. There aren't many tournaments happening in VALORANT and many players who aren't playing on the top are just chilling and practicing for six months."
"There are many more upcoming young stars that are going to come up, it happened in VALORANT. There are many players in the scene that didn't even play Counter-Strike before, they downloaded the game when it came out and they became good at it. Which I think will also happen in CS2, when some youngsters pick up the game. We also need esports clubs in Turkey to support the scene, and if that happens, the future will be bright."
ESL Pro League S18 also marks woxic's return to Big Events for the first time since September of 2022, when he attended the 16th season of ESL's league in Malta. "I miss it, this is my place. I'm showing much more emotion and impact, and everything goes much better for me. I like to be in competition, but when you are in competition with teams below the top level, it's not as exciting as this one," said woxic about his return to tier-one competition.
Eternal Fire have recently competed in online tournaments and showed some decent performances. In their last outing at RES Eastern European Masters, they defeated Spirit and took Cloud9 to the brink, with the latter also present in their EPL group.
woxic thinks that experience against such rosters is only a positive for the team. "If you say you can beat someone, you first need to play against them and understand how they play and what you can do. I always believed from the start that we can beat everyone here, but now everyone in the team saw it too, and I think it's going to be good for us.
"Firstly, we want to make the playoffs," woxic said optimistically. "Depending on the results we get in the group, I think we can go to the final or even win the tournament if we reach the playoffs. Our biggest opponent is ourselves."