When I was in school my teachers and even my friends were telling me to focus on studying rather than playing games. “You can be whatever you want to be” is what they said, but they didn’t know that all I wanted to be was a professional Counter-Strike player.
I was born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia. I lived with my parents and have two younger brothers, pretty normal stuff.
Before I got into games I was a big nerd. My grades were always perfect and I was studying every single day. I always focused on my future when I was younger.
Back then I wanted to be a lawyer and to do that you have to study hard, and I was, at least until my friends got me into gaming.
When I was around 10, me and my friends started going to the LAN cafe after school and on the weekends. That was when I got into Counter-Strike 1.6, that was my first real game. Even though I played it for three or four years I never really got close to playing at a top level at all.
By the time CS:GO came out, I’d moved onto League of Legends. It was actually a friend of mine who brought me back to CS after he gifted CS:GO to me on Steam.
I always knew that these games were going to be competitive and I wanted to be involved, that’s why I grinded so hard on 1.6 and League of Legends. I was glad when I got into CS:GO and finally found a game that I was really good at.
I think it took me about 10 hours of game time in CS:GO to realize that I was going to be a professional in this game.
I remember talking to my parents after I finished high school. I told them: “give me one year to go pro at this game and, if I don’t make it, I promise I will go to college”.
My first competitive team was iNation, and they scouted me straight from playing in local LANs with my friends in Serbia. I was invited to join their team, but it ended up not going very well.
I think it was a bit too early for me to get into that level of competition. I had only been playing the game for a year or so, and I just wasn’t ready for that level of progression.
I ended up just making a team with some of my friends from the game. We called it “Guerilla Method” and ended up playing in the WESG qualifier. We actually beat iNation in the final.
Getting to go to Kiev to play the main tournament is probably one of the biggest moments of my career so far because that’s where I had my breakout performance.
We were placed in a group with Norway, who were using Rain and Rubino and some others, and there was Virtus Pro, Russia, and Bpro too. We totally tanked it to be honest, but my individual level was extremely high. I remember a lot of people talking about me on Twitter and talking about my stats which was kind of cool.
The best game was against Virtus Pro. We lost and it was quite close, but there were so many rounds where I had a really high impact, like 3 or 4 kills.
It was one of the most impactful matches of my career so far. My first international LAN and my first time against a world-class team. Despite the loss, I’m still proud of my performance in that game.
I can still remember hearing Pasha yelling “kurwa” after every round that we took from them.
As I understand it, it was because of my performance in those matches that Renegades decided they wanted to pick me up.
It was kind of a strange move because while it was happening, Yam left the team. Instead of wanting just another player to join, they wanted an IGL. Kassad asked me if I would be up for being the IGL, and even though I had never done it before, I said I would do it.
I moved to Detroit, Michigan to live in a gaming house for the first time.
For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to live in America. My English has always been very good, so I didn’t think it would be much of a problem moving there. When I actually got there, it was much harder than I expected.
You’re living with these six other guys out in the suburbs and there really isn’t anything to do besides playing Counter-Strike. You would sleep, wake up, practice, and then sleep again. It was very difficult to socialize with people outside of the game because we were so far away from everything.
The biggest problem was in-game though. My confidence was being crippled the entire time because I was not doing a good job as the IGL. Honestly, I’m just not an IGL. I was never meant to be one, and I never will be one again.
Before I joined Renegades I was only thinking of myself and my aim, but when I was there I had to think about so many other things. I stopped focusing on my aim and ended up just losing every duel I took, and even then I was still making shitty calls anyway.
It took about a month to realize that it wasn’t going to work. Nifty offered to take over the role after IEM Sydney where we had been trashed by every team.
Things were going okay when we won the Asian Minor and got to play in the major qualifier. Personally, we expected to qualify. We played against Flipside and Tyloo first, and in both games, we lost despite being ahead.
At 0-2 we finally managed to get a win against Optic, who were a good team at the time, with Tarik and those guys. We had a lot of hope after that, we all thought we could turn it around and make the major.
Unfortunately, we lost another close game against Team Dignitas and went out.
We stayed for another two days at the event after we lost. The atmosphere in the team was horrible, mostly just staying in our rooms. We all felt like we could have made it if not for a couple of small mistakes.
It was one day after Dreamhack Atlanta, where we finished top four, that Kassad took me aside and told me that they wanted to replace me with another player. I told him that I expected it to happen, and honestly, it was deserved.
I spoke to the team afterwards and everyone was very nice about it, there was no bad blood there. I even flew back to Serbia with Kassad afterwards, as he was going home for a short break.
After my experience with Renegades, I just returned to my individual grind with my confidence was at an all-time low. Whenever I feel like I’m not doing well, I just play hours and hours of FPL.
Eventually, Acillion approached me with a plan to make a team with Tenzki. I joined because I had no other offers at the time.
We knew we needed some firepower on the lineup, so we just looked at the FPL and FPL-C ladder. That’s where we found Espiranto, who is having a great breakout right now.
We were in talks with so many organizations during the first few months of the team existence; really good orgs, with lots of money. They always said they liked the idea and they were very interested, but eventually, each one pulled out of any deal that was on the table.
We knew that the results would eventually pay off for us, but it was very frustrating.
After four months we were pretty desperate to find an organization. We would negotiate with someone, and then they would ask for a month to think about, then another month after that.
Eventually, we just said “you either sign us or you don’t” because we felt like we were being strung along.
It was Neil who found Imperial. He contacted them and we finally managed to forge a deal. Before that, I got an offer from Valiance to join them, but I never wanted to leave the team, because I believed in the lineup and knew we could accomplish a lot.
The Dreamhack win was a vindictive moment for me because it proved that I had made the right choice to stick with the team. Before Dreamhack we had been playing very poorly online, so getting this win was very important to all of us.
After our Dreamhack victory, I had so many people messaging me to say “congrats”, “that’s insane” and “you finally made it big”. It was an amazing feeling.
I am yet to play in a big arena. I want to be on the stage with thousands of people in the crowd cheering me on. Obviously, every player wants to play in and win a major, and I am no different. Maybe one day I’ll reach those heights, but for now, I’m just aiming to step foot on that stage.
I hope that one day I can be an inspiration for some of the younger players in Serbia who want to try and become professional. Esports has come a long way but, in Serbia, it’s still seen as a pointless dream. If I tell anyone over the age of 25 that I’m a professional Counter-Strike player, they look at me like I’m crazy.
I really wish I could do something to change that, and maybe one day I will be able to do that.
Image Credit – Dreamhack/Adela Sznajder & cs-go.rs