Update: Liquid have confirmed the change, citing "a private, personal matter (Miracle- has) to take care of. He is a very private person so we're not revealing what it is right now."
The struggles for the organisers of the Chongqing Major continue, with the news that yet another big name will not be in China for the second Major of the Dota season. Team Liquid’s Amer 'Miracle-' Al-Barkawi will not play for his side at the event, having not travelled to China with his team. Liquid will instead field TI6 Champion Chu ‘shadow’ Zeyu, who was inactive for Eclipse prior to the move.
Related: Chongqing Major live streams and expected rosters
While official confirmation is pending, it does seem as those close to the scene are happy to confirm Miracle- will not play for Liquid at the event, and shadow has edited the title of his stream to confirm the news. It will be interesting to see how he performs, and the timing is extremely opportune with all eyes on the Major and the player currently inactive.
Speculation on social media is that the player may have had his visa revoked, with some users on reddit suggesting this is related to the tension between China and Canada relating to Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s arrest. That makes little sense, even if the player in question shares dual Polish and Jordanian nationality, and several players of Canadian descent have already arrived in China for the Major.
A Huawei employee was arrested in Poland this week, but the company has already parted ways with that individual, and Team Secret confirmed that their Polish player Michał ‘Nisha’ Jankowski has not only successfully travelled to China already, but has also not had any issues with his visa situation.
Even if the move is politically motivated, speculation is potentially harmful until that is confirmed, and with the long history of visa issues Dota has this is far more likely to be something less ominous on a global scale.
While Shadow was benched when the move was proposed, it was only a couple of years ago that he was lifting the TI6 trophy with Wings Gaming, and at 21 years old he’s far from washed up. As an English speaker, he should fit into the team well, and it will be interesting to see how far this temporary Liquid team can go, but the chances they will play to the level expected with Miracle- are slim to none.
Chinese Dota in a strange spot
This marks the latest in a long string of controversies surrounding the Chongqing Major, which can be traced back to the kuku/Skem racism furore. The outcome of that was not just the two players being banned, but a growing tension between western and Chinese fans as the perception that the rules were different depending on where you are from grew. That perception was not entirely inaccurate, with the iceiceice incident probably the most egregious example of the double standard the western fans are convinced is being applied.
That has already led to a somewhat underwhelming talent list for fans of the game, as many big names expressed their concerns over potential government interference in the esport, as is only right. In all major sports it is a requirement that players are allowed to play and train without interference from political sources, and failure to observe that can lead to entire nations being banned from competition, rightly so.
With TI9 set to take place in Shanghai later in the year, this would be a worrying precedent for Dota in China, which has traditionally been a heartland for the esport, and produced many great champions. This is also a factor of the growth of esports, as the new, higher profile the scene enjoys brings it to the attention of more powerful people, who may seek to abuse it for their own means, if indeed this is the case in any of these situations.
For now, though, the story is simply that Miracle- will not be at the Chongqing Major, to his team’s detriment, as well as that of the enjoyment of the fans. Hopefully, the rest of the event goes off without incident, as there is no doubt that Chongqing has been one of the most troubled Majors in recent history, and does not reflect well on Dota or even esports when generating such headlines.
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Image credit: Team Liquid