Esport – Counter-Strike – Neo: “The biggest pressure we had at Vitality was not to win ZywOo”

“Sunday, your team counter strike won the Paris Major, at home. Very quickly, you tweeted that this adventure had started with a promise…
Before we start counter strike, I have long been in demand. I had a lot of proposals, I was playing with them a bit but in truth I didn’t really want to go there. I just call of duty and I had suffered with the French players. It was a lion’s den and I knew on CS a bit too. But I heard of young prodigies, including ZywOo (Mathieu Herbaut), for a while. And then apEX (Dan Madesclaire) is benched by G2 (in 2018). I suggest a meeting with him, I share my observations with him, he quite agrees… But a few days later we talk to each other again and he tells me that it would be too stupid not to go for it with ZywOo. Suddenly this project speaks to me: players at the service of a new generation, driven by great potential. It made me see the copy again, I liked this story of a talented kid who could be surrounded to bring him to the supreme title. When I first spoke to him on the phone, he was not hard to convince. He liked the squad, he wanted to come. But I still said to him: If you come to Vitality, it’s above all so that you can one day win a major title “. With his potential, we had to make him this promise. He didn’t need it but it was close to my heart because he was the reason we came to counter strike. This project has always been the ZywOo project.

And the first person you think of on Sunday is him?
I’ve taken so much in the face in recent years… Sometimes rightly so, beware: communication has not always been good, we have had worrying results, I wanted to hide… When we win, I could have brought her back. But the truth is, I didn’t care. Because I had made this promise to a kid in whom I believed and who gave me the best emotions of my life. I have never loved managing, supporting, watching a player as much as ZywOo. Seeing him win that Major… Yeah, I wasn’t even thinking about myself. We did it with him and if it was a movie, he would stop there. I’m happy to have won, I missed it, it’s for this kind of meeting that I work every day, that I cling to. But the biggest pressure we had at Vitality was not to win ZywOo. I can say it now, it’s not a failure.

“For the first time in my life, I want to savor this success. Usually I bounce right back on the next shot. Non. It’s a reward that puts us in the court of the greats of esports. Winning a Major is exceptional”

You still imploded upon victory. You burst into tears instantly.
Everything came crashing down. I’ve become superstitious in the last few days, I’ve kept the same pants, I was doing the same trip on a scooter to the Accor Arena… And then everything slackens. Vitality has been a locomotive without a wagon for a long time in French esports. There are plenty of great projects that have emerged lately, but being this “leader” isolates you. You are the person to kill. It was complicated, sometimes unfair… It made me unhappy, even if I tried to create a shell. When we win I become a kid again. And then there’s nothing left behind, it’s emptiness. For the first time in my life I want to savor this success. Usually I bounce right back to the next shot. Non. It’s a reward that puts us in the court of the greats of esports. Winning a Major is exceptional. Two weeks ago I was having coffee with Ceb (Sébastien Debs, twice winner of The International, the supreme title on Dota 2) and complained a bit about our results. And he said something to me: You know, my first TI took me seven years to earn “. You don’t think about this mess when you look at this guy, winner twice in a row. We did it in four and a half years on counter strike finally, it’s not an eternity. And that’s Vitality’s greatest achievement, for sure. The scenario was reserved for us.

This Paris Major is the most prestigious title won by Vitality in ten years of existence.  (S. Lindgren/BLAST)

This Paris Major is the most prestigious title won by Vitality in ten years of existence. (S. Lindgren/BLAST)

You mentioned new clubs, especially in France: in this changing environment, was it important to ert yourself with this kind of title?
It’s key. We moved away from the model of influence which made our success during the first years to turn to something very “performance”. And these kind of projects fit in time when they win. It was important for the structure, for this choice. Besides, I didn’t want to talk about it right away but I had a thought for LDLC. A club that I have always known in this environment, friend for a long time. Win this Major when they stop, it’s beautiful. They won one in 2014, it marked us all. There is a form of thank you, it makes me happy to say goodbye to them in this way. Without money at the time, I had tried to position myself on the workforce. The players had chosen LDLC for their model, above the hype what was Vitality at that time. The result had proven them right. This organization has always been a beautiful model.

Does this title also validate your choices, the processes put in place and followed by this team?
Yes, but beyond that how lucky we are to have zonic (Danny Sørensen, Vitality coach). He is the best of all time (before this Paris Major, he had won four with Astralis between 2017 and 2019). He chose this project by rejecting better financial offers than ours to support the alien that is ZywOo. He has an incredible palette, he adapts, dares to say he needs help. He had never had an istant, but it was a condition for me to keep MaT (Mathieu Leber) by his side. They found each other. He also told me that he would need Lars Robl (the team’s mental trainer) with him in 2023, he was ready to pay out of pocket to have him accompany them full time. Zonic is a cut above the rest, what he has done will probably never be done again. In addition to the players, with MaT, Matthieu Péché (team manager) and Lars, they are the architects of this success.

You dropped the ball on the involvement of Rémy “XTQZZZ” Quoniam (ex-coach of Vitality, commentator for the Major during the tournament): how did he fit in there?
He didn’t get the exit he deserved. His departure was a difficult choice, one of the hardest I had to make, which we can call unfair, I admit. I put a little pressure on the staff at the end of last year because we were not at the level of our objectives. After leaving G2, XTQZZZ came to me with an academy project in mind, which ultimately didn’t see the light of day. But we connected him to the staff to do some consulting, discuss some ideas. In the preparation of the game, MaT and zonic are self-sufficient but we wanted to create a sharing of experience. Once again, with Matthieu Péché and Lars Robl, they are the main responsible behind this title. Rémy brought this small percentage that we were perhaps missing and it is important on the scale of a performance.

ZywOo was the first subject of discussion, he is also the last: his contract ends in a little over a year, finally the first objective of this day after victory is to extend it?
Of course. ZywOo is Vitality, Vitality is ZywOo. We have a great story together, a relationship of trust, we are connected. A project without him does not seem possible to me. Discussions have already started for an extension and I am confident. »

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