E-Sport is a Sport – A Wonderful One. Period.

There is something magic in cheering up for a beloved team, in gathering together dressed up in vivid jerseys waiting for a match to start. Each of us has lived these moments of unity countless times in a life, a unique feeling of anticipation while getting nervous yet pretty excited at the same time. I am no different, I have cherished numerous of incredible matches since I have always been interested in sports (mostly NBA basketball). However, the last one and a half year have been a bit different, I have gotten into a bit unconventional form of following the sporting competitions. I have become a huge enthusiast of E-Sport, especially, Counter Strike International Scene. And once I barely finish the sentence, this is the exact time when someone stands up and begins to shout:

“E-Sport? What? You call this a sport? Playing the video games? Are you serious?! Football is the game!”

You might be surprised, but yes, I am dead serious and as far as I am concerned I do place “playing the video games” in the same category as my admired basketball. If I could have a dollar for each time I heard that watching streams of the Counter-Strike tournaments is goofy and foolish, I would have much more time to do it so since I would not have to work;) I need to consider that, really!

Team Spirit
Luckily, I am not left alone to fight with such an unjust stereotype. Most of my closest friends are also zealous supporters of the gaming sports. Every several weekends, we all meet together to root for our Polish team – The mighty Virtus Pro, one of the best in the world. You might not expect the fact, but some of the Polish gamers have been playing professionally for more than 10 years winning a variety of international tournaments including the World Cyber Games or Major Events like DreamHacks. By the time you are reading this article, we already know the results of the DreamHack Las Vegas 2017, for the Sunday’s morning The VP is taking a Danish team Astralis in the Semi-Finals.

***UPDATE***

Virtus Pro has just won in the finals beating their Brazilian friends 2:1! Snax claims the MVP award!

 

Tomasz, Piotr and folks watching the CS “Team Biceps”! Pasha would be proud:)

Virtus Pro Origins
Previously mentioned Virtus Pro Squad was assembled in January 2014, it contained an addition of three players from the original Golden Five (the name given to a group of close-knitted Polish players, who dominated the Counter Strike 1.6 scene from 2006 to 2008) Filip “Neo” Kubski, Jaroslaw “Pasha” Jarzabkowski, Wiktor “Taz” Wojas, and two new young rising stars, Pawel “Byali” Bielinski and Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski. About twelve months later, they were joined by Jakub “Kuben” Gurczynski who serves the team as a coach (also an ex G5 member). The guys formed a well-established team with unbelievable chemistry, and have stuck together for peaks and valleys of their careers. Quite a remarkable for a bunch of folks operating in such dynamic environment, actually, most of the teams have replaced its rosters or made trades for the last 3 years now. What is more, On December 19th – Virtus.pro announced that their current five players have signed long-term contracts that keep them tied to the structure until 2020. It is the loyalty and team spirit what makes them exceptional, the guys are so down to earth, even though they are millionaires who have simply won everything that they could. Still, they are hungry for more and more achievements, trying to never let the Polish fans down.

Among their biggest accomplishments are:
– 1st DreamHack Masters Las Vegas – $200 000 prize
– 1st place ELEAGUE Season 1 in Atlanta – $400 000 prize
– 1st ESL ESEA Pro League Invitational in Dubai – $100 000 prize
– 1st Premier StarLadder i-League Invitational #1 in Kiev – $50 000 prize
– 1st Premier ESEA Season 18 – Global Invite Division in Dallas – $70 000 prize
– 1st Premier ESL Major Series One: Katowice 2014 – $100 000 prize (probably the most important victory in the team’s history)
– 2nd Premier ELEAGUE Major 2017 in Atlanta – $150 000 prize
– 2nd Premier EPICENTER 2016 in Moscow – $100 000 prize
– 2nd Premier ESL One: New York 2016 – $50 000 prize
– 3rd ESL One: Cologne 2016 – $70 000 prize
– 3rd World Electronic Sports Games 2016 in Changzhou – $200 000 prize

The tournaments are often held in the big cities all around the world, organized in a very professional manner, and the crowd is sold out every single time reaching the attendance to 40 000 people. Premier Tournaments offer an exceptional prize pool, are generally played out offline, and highlight the best players from all over the world. They are ordinarily held by well-established franchises and are acknowledged especially prestigious amongst the Counter Strike International Scene.

The Hard Work
The titles are, undoubtedly, impressive, but for me, what is the most spectacular is the work ethic that these guys can put into their profession. Being a professional gamer is no different from making the living as a “conventional” sportsman – it is the sweat and the effort. Basically, your entire day is training, rest, media meeting time, travels all around the world and meeting with the fans. Yep, the VP members are well-known and widely recognizable wherever they go, what as they state, is a bit fatiguing since they do not feel as the celebrities. On the other hand, they exactly know how to take advantage of that and they have their own stickers, clothes, gadgets and other souvenirs (well, I own few of them). In addition, they run their own training and playing streams and contribute in several events like charity or promotion (Wielka Orkiestra Swiatecznej Pomocy or Playing Equipment Commercials). Just to visualize the popularity, for example, Jaroslaw “Pasha” Jarzabkowski is followed on Facebook by roughly 850 000, two hundred grand more than Andrzej Duda, the Polish president.

Presenting the team:

Jaroslaw “Pasha” Jarzabkowski

By far, the most colorful persona in the bunch. Was voted 3rd best CS:GO player of 2014 by HLTV.org. A man is known for his funny English and goofy pronunciation, some say it is an intentional act. His playing style is similar to living in the Rambo dream, he is always first in action-packed situations taking on huge risk, and sometimes failing miserably, but when he succeeds he sums up it in the words “Full control my friend”. Privately, he has a wife and a daughter that mean hell lot for him, whereas, his second hobby is lifting weights. That is why he is sometimes called “PapaBiceps” and his supporting group “TeamBiceps”. Pasha is a nice and cool guy, he can be perfectly described by his own quote

“You Are Not My Friend, You Are My Brother, My Friend.”

You can follow Jarek on his official Facebook FanPage

Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas

Captain of the team, a man with a huge experience. Probably, he has seen everything that is possible in the professional gaming. He has been with Counter Strike since the beginning, for good and bad. A true in-game leader, always respectful of the opponents and humble in representing Poland. Even tough he’s nearly 31, he has no vision of retiring despite the fact hearing constant jokes that he should be already moving by the wheelchair. But hey, does he need to walk to be a gamer;)? He started the pro-career in 2004 – it has been a hell of a run, hasn’t it?

You can follow Wiktor on his official Facebook FanPage

Filip “NEO” Kubski

The myth, the man, the legend – The God, because this is how he is called by the fans and players. One of the greatest gamers that have ever gotten involved in the Counter-Strike professional gaming. As weel as Taz, he initiated his fruitful CS journey in 2004. He was voted the best CS 1.6 player of 2011 by HLTV.org and won the Best E-Sportsman of the Year Award. Filip is an active PC equipment entrepreneur and has performed lots of mouse and keyboard tests. Zowie GEAR, a mouse-producing company, launched a custom FK1 hardware after the Neo’s name and surname initials.

You can follow Filip on his official Facebook FanPage

Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski

He might be a fairly young person, but he looks like a giant bear, so does his gaming style. Incredibly intelligent player, a true rising star of the Counter-Strike. The Polish beast Janusz Pogorzelski has been selected to top 5 appearances to three in a row in HLTV’s top 20 rankings. The Virtus.pro player collected two MVP and two EVP grants en route to the 5th place on our roster this year.

You can follow Janusz on his official Facebook FanPage

Paweł “Byali” Bielińnki

The youngest guy on the roster who was only 20 years while joining the famous friends. There was a lot of pressure put on him, but so far, he has lived up, even exceeded, the expectations. He was given a nickname of “The Aim From Poland” due to his incomparable shooting craft. He happens to have some off-shooting matches, but he is in the killing spree, he gets ace after ace.

You can follow Pawel on his official Facebook FanPage

Jakub “Kuben” Gurczynski

Widely known for his time in the Golden Five entrants, it was declared in February 2015 that he would come back from retirement to work as a Coach for his former team-mates in Virtus.pro. Jakub is an experienced gamer and an encouraging manager, undoubtedly, he’s an inseparable part of the Virtus Pro success putting his veteran knowledge to the practice.

You can follow Jakub on his official Facebook FanPage

Piotr’s View
I have asked a very good friend of mine Piotr Gankiewicz (a fellow blogger and a software developer) to express his opinion on the E-Sport since I know that he is also a tremendous aficionado of sporting activities.

I’m a big fan of sports myself (the guy in the blue shirt on this quite old photo at the top).

Weightlifting, running, martial arts and so on, but clicking a mouse while playing shooter game? Would you ever call it a sport? How dare you. I was like that for many, many years.
Of course, I did enjoy playing games with my friends like Counter Strike or World of Warcraft on a quite competitive level (I was one of the best undead rogues in my realm ;)).
Yet still, for me, the e-sport was all about some fat dudes using their keyboards and mouses and getting paid for… for what?
Do you even use muscles here? Who’s your opponent? Just sit in your basement in front of your computer and be the miserable guy for the rest of your life, right?

Well, I couldn’t be more wrong. At first, we (a group of friends) started playing again CS: GO just to chill out and have some online fun from time to time (although currently all of us have a huge deficit of the free time, so we stopped playing again). My friends told me about the twitch.tv that there are some matches being transmitted online. Moreover, there are some huge tournaments (called major or even premium ones), where you can earn a lot of money (hundreds of thousand of dollars) as the main prize. That got me thinking – who’s paying them, the professional e-sport players so much money, and for what exactly?

And it was then I got into it so deeply. Once I saw the first match of our great Polish team Virtus.Pro I kept on waiting for more and more tournaments. The teamwork, the emotions, the great commentary, the unexpected tactics, the clutches – it’s just a small part of things which make e-sport a truly competitive sport. Once you see the final round, where the guy like Snax is being left with 4 guys and it’s almost unwinnable and then you see this guy crushing their opponents (even though all of these players are the top level gamers) while the clock is ticking and the bomb is about to go off, you’ll see where the beauty of the e-sport lays in.

Just give it a try, watch at least a single match, let yourself experience all of the great emotions that will be a part of it, and you might instantly love it just like I did quite some time ago.


Future Insight

As you can see, the world of E-Sport is immense and fascinating. Definitely, it is not only a mindless clicking button of your mouse and keyboard, as far as we are concerned we would compare Counter-Strike to the Royal Game of Chess. It is everything about the predicting what your opponents would do, your reflex and the tactics implemented to the match.
There is a forecast that by the year of 2020 nearly 350 million of people would be following some sort of the professional gaming. The gaming has been emerging as a natural consequence of technology development. In addition, it has been proved that the video games may improve your intelligence and analyze functions, in simple words, it is the training for your brain. Many AirForce pilots practice their piloting skills on the simulators, which in fact, are nothing else, but the advanced computer games.
There is nothing bad in watching Counter-Strike, and I do believe that bad publicity is strictly connected with the ignorance of individuals who criticize it. What, actually, is funny is the fact that significant amount of negative opinions are express by the people who do not have any interest in sports;) Yes, I know, I am being sarcastic, and I am doing this on a purpose.
It might be surprising, but there are a lot of hard Counter-Strike celebrity fans, for example, a Polish professional tennis player Jerzy Janowicz takes the gaming very seriously;). Michal Szafranski, on of the most known Polish blogger – http://jakoszczedzacpieniadze.pl/, is a large e-sport enthusiast as well, he sees watching the Counter-Strike tournaments as a form of relaxing.

Gaming is not a crime, give it a try, you will fall in love with Pasha:) We all did a long time ago.

 

Tomasz Kurowski and Piotr Gankiewicz

image source: http://wiki.teamliquid.net/

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