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Credit: PGL

Degster: “I’m still struggling to process that I’m in the semi-finals of the Major”




Before Team Spirit’s fateful match against FaZe Clan in the semi-finals of PGL Major Antwerp, we sat down with Dragon’s star Abdulkhalik ‘Degster’ Gasanov to talk about their impressive run at the Major, and the rollercoaster that has been the journey of Team Spirit to their success. 

Jaxon

It’s been a day after you took down FURIA. How do you look back at this victory now?

degster

We have an excellent attitude towards all victories, not only against FURIA. The atmosphere is fantastic because we don’t set ourselves any goals right now. We are just enjoying this tournament.

We went where we did not expect to go in principle. Yes, we believed in ourselves, but we thought we could stop at the earlier stages. Now it’s a simple approach; we try to enjoy our game, try to win, and motivate each other.

Jaxon

If I’m not mistaken, you had no experience playing in front of spectators at such tournaments before that?

degster

If you do not take small tournaments into account, this is the first experience in my career.

Image: PGL

Jaxon

Did you have any expectations coming in, since it was your first time playing in front of a crowd?

degster

I didn’t have any specific expectations. I heard that the arena could create pressure on you, influence your decisions, and you can get nervous in actions. But I took it for granted. If it happened, then okay, it happened.

When we got to the arena, we watched NiP vs. FaZe, and I saw people getting sick; it was amazing. So when I came on stage, I was already imbued with the atmosphere. Everything was cool.

“We simply enjoy CS. Where this pleasure will bring us will become apparent in three days.”
Abdulkhalik “degster” Gasanov

Jaxon

Let’s talk about the match with FURIA. When you came to the arena, you saw how many people were rooting for the Brazilians. What was it like to play against the crowd?

degster

I love the people, the audience, the CS fan base, and the people on fire with this game. Seeing them, even if they were rooting against me, was amazing because I saw their love for the game and faith in people.

It was not so important how many people cheered for me and how many were against me; I saw that people were wearing NAVI, G2 jerseys yesterday, but they were rooting for us, and it was amazing. It was about people from different parts of the world who came to celebrate Counter-Strike.

Jaxon

FURIA picked Vertigo against you. You had a 100% win rate on this map for the last three months. How did you react to such a pick?

degster

Winrate did not work well for us in this tournament because the matches in which we came back from ridiculous scores like 1:14 have already gone from the statistics for the last three months. 

I was sure that FURIA would pick Vertigo against us because they believe in their game. I expected this peak from them, and they did just that. They beat G2 on it. We prepared for them and proved that not everything is as simple as arT says.

Jaxon

More than a few fans were surprised when they saw the score of 2:0. Were you surprised as well, and did your opponents disappoint you in some way?

degster

No, the opponents did not disappoint me. I was not surprised that we beat them 2-0. I understood that such a result is possible; you need to play the way we agreed and trust each other in crucial moments.

Image: PGL

Jaxon

You’ve already shown an impressive run through the event. You weren’t even a dark horse, all things considered. What do you think is the key to success at this stage?

degster

I don’t know what lies at the root of our success. After the relocation, we spent all the time together, next to each other, working on our game. Over the past three months, all the problems we have overcome have brought us together. They helped us become the best version of Team Spirit. 

I want to return to my relatives at one moment, sit down, and process the way I have turned out for these six months.

I am still struggling to process that I am in the semi-finals of the Major at 100%. Even yesterday, I did not register that we were playing on stage in the playoffs; this still needs to be recognized.

“I love the people, the audience, the CS fan base, and the people on fire with this game. Seeing them, even if they were rooting against me, was amazing because I saw their love for the game.”
Abdulkhalik “degster” Gasanov

Jaxon

Next, you have FaZe Clan. It’s a team that will not underestimate you. It may be the last Major for Karrigan. What are your thoughts about the opponent?

degster

I have a lot of respect for Karrigan’s team and Finn Andersen as a person. I doubt that he will make such a mistake in the semi-finals of the major as underestimating the opponent. He already said this in an interview yesterday.

We have been preparing since the beginning of the day. First, we sorted out our mistakes in the match against FURIA.

Our analyst, OverDrive, is getting ready to tell us what to do in the FaZe match. We, in turn, at the end of the day, will discuss the topic of what we need to do tomorrow.

I respect all the players of the FaZe team. I think it will be a fantastic semi-final that will show if we can make it to the final or if this is the end of the story for us.

Jaxon

Matches with different teams have their determining factors. What will be the determining factors in the game against FaZe tomorrow?

degster

Tomorrow will be tough. Everything will depend on the game of our players. I know that If I play my best CS, it will be difficult for any team to play against us. For that purpose, I train every day to prove myself in matches in the game and in life.

Jaxon

In our last interview at IEM Katowice 2021, you said that many teams remain dissatisfied with themselves after practicing with you because of your playing style. Do you play this style in official matches in front of spectators?

degster

I know that any team that has reviewed our matches is hard against me. A year and a half ago, I could depend on my teammates’ opinions. Now, I am an adult player who knows how to analyze his opponents; I understand why I make certain decisions.

And I, in turn, know why I was successful in the match against them.

Jaxon

In the last interview, Patsi said you got everything you could from PGL Major Antwerp 2022. Do you agree with his words?

degster

It depends on what he meant by those words. If we are talking about what the expectations were, then yes. Each of us, being a realist, expected that we might not reach this stage.

We should enjoy it and not think that “we are in the semi-finals.” I believe that we do not need to set such goals because it can create unnecessary pressure on the players, especially the younger ones.

We promote this policy to all young players within the team. We enjoy CS. Where this pleasure will bring us will become apparent in three days.

Image: PGL

Jaxon

You have a high percentage of wins in rounds for defense. Could you explain that to me?

degster

Our style is the reason in the first place. The second most important quality of defense is the ability to communicate correctly between players. It was an intention during the construction of this roster.

Jaxon

Don’t you think it was related to your map pool? Nuke, Ancient, Vertigo – those maps favor the defense.

degster

Nuke – yes. I’m not sure about Ancient. I can’t even tell on which map the attack is stronger now. In general, any map is better to play for CT.

I think the communication and the atmosphere we have now allowed us to take many rounds for defense.

Jaxon

I can’t help but ask about the challenges you encountered at the last moment. You have been deprived of a coach just a few days before the Major. How did it change your preparation for a match?

degster

To be honest, I realized that I tend to be even more of a leader during the matches than before when we were playing with a coach. For my part, I understood that you need to control some things. For example, yesterday in the match with FURIA, I saw that we were playing in a hurry. I took a break and asked everyone to slow down to secure the advantage.

Initially, of course, we were all dissatisfied. But over time, everyone motivated themselves with such a decision from ESIC to show that we play not only for ourselves but also for Hally.

Jaxon

degster

It was pretty challenging. It was a sudden, unexpected, and unpredictable decision. We played in computer clubs where the conditions were horrible. Playing on 144 Hz monitors when you are preparing for the Major is not the best state at all. 

But we told ourselves that this was all we could get now and continued to do our best. After all this period of preparation, I want to lie down and have some time to comprehend everything that happened in the last months of my life.

“Over the past three months, all the problems we had overcome have brought us together. They helped us become the best version of Team Spirit. “
Abdulkhalik “degster” Gasanov

Jaxon

Looking at the bracket, which team do you think will be able to reach the final?

degster

I think that if NAVI wins today, then the ENCE team will not have many chances to beat them. If Heroic wins, then anything can happen there.

We are playing against FaZe. Yes, the team is strong. They have Karrigan, a real old, he started with CS 1.6, and it is clear he has a certain time frame. Therefore, his teammates will help him get what he wants, here and now.

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