ESL One Belo Horizonte recap: New Horizons

The weekend brought us many headlines, but for Counter-Strike there was really one event that had most of the eyes. ESL’s event in Brazil, officially titled ESL One Belo Horinzonte, finished late Sunday night for most people, and saw two teams with stand-ins battle in a best-of-five final that had drama, some amazing play, and more twists than a Chubby Checker hit. Eventually, the empire defeated the plucky rebels, but FaZe gave their underdog opponents plenty of chances to win before finishing up a 3-2 series win on Dust II, and taking leg three on their journey to $1m.

What made the event most special though, was the crowd, a ten-thousand strong army of fanatics that screamed, cried, roared and bellowed their way through several days of pretty decent CS, and not just when ‘SK Gaming’ were on the stage. We added the floating quotes for a reason, as there was a bit of push-pull between some orgs prior to this one, but we’ll come to that later.

Nobody was surprised at the level of vocal support the SK boys received, as FalleN, coldzera, fer and to a lesser extent Boltz are legends of the game in that part of the world, but the love extended to teams that had Brazilian players on them, or just guys who spoke Portuguese, such was the enthusiasm. Commentators could not be heard over the crowd, even on stream, and some of the pictures players released from signings showed esports is a big deal over there.

Sadly for the home crowd, there was no Brazilian representation in the final as SK were not able to make it that far and Team Liquid’s Brazilian contingent were unfortunately attached to Team Liquid. That’s not a dig at the team themselves, but with the news today that SK would love to pick up a coach, and the way TACO has played in recent weeks, one can’t help feel like the removal of the lovable and selfless support was possibly a bigger error than the dodgy haircut FalleN had a while back.

New additions

One person who made no mistake is Noah Whinston, the divisive CEO of Immortals, who was clearly unhappy with the fact he couldn’t parade his new players in front of their home crowd due to their current org not playing ball. Luckily for IMT and their new Made in Brazil brand, the one non-Brazilian member of the team, Stewie2K, seems to have been signed direct from Cloud 9 to Immortals, and was therefore not contractually obliged to wear his SK gear, judging by the social media output we saw.

It was new additions that won all the headlines over the weekend, mainly due to the fact that both teams were playing with subs, but for FaZe there was a sense that they couldn’t even use that as an excuse having had the luxury of one whole event with Cromen in the bag. As it was, in some ways their opponents may have been the ones to gain more from their stand-in, not just in terms of kill power, or not even that, but definitely in terms of morale.

Bringing in Jordan ‘n0thing’ Gilbert, a man notorious for being positive, friendly and helpful, as a sub for Tomáš ‘oskar’ Šťastný does obviously come with a few penalties. For all that the latter is occasionally streaky, when he gets going with the AWP only the likes of kennyS and GuardiaN can live with him, but there is another side to his absence, seen mainly on the face of his team-mate and long-suffering support STYKO.

As mentioned on numerous occasions, oskar is a phenomenally hard man to accommodate in a team due to his personal idiosyncrasies, to the point where he will even buy a pointless pistol upgrade in a vital round just to annoy a team-mate. In contrast, n0thing could be seen encouraging his team mates, and often STYKO, who put up some fantastic numbers and looked a high-level player throughout the final. We aren’t saying oskar has held STKYO back, but the hug between the Slovakian support and his new American friend at the end of the game said a lot.

Overall though, the winners were the crowd, and a lack of negative headlines generated around the event may also convince more organisers to visit this part of the world. You can be certain that as soon as SK get to change into their new tops the MiBR guys will be doing everything in their power to play in front of this crowd again, and who can blame them? It really was something special.

Image credit: ESL