StarSeries will be a Do or Die event for many teams in Kiev, but for Ali “hAdji” Haïnouss’ Imperial, it’s a chance to prove themselves on the international stage.
For Imperial, StarSeries began with a victory against the FACEIT Major London 2018 Legends HellRaisers. They successfully overcame the hurdle of a more experienced team in their opening game. However, their second game in the event wasn’t as successful.
After a hard fought battle, Ali “hAdji” Haïnouss and his team had to acknowledge defeat against ENCE. In their third game, the team under a Lithuanian flag bounced back and convincingly overcame China’s CyberZen.
With just one win away from making it to the playoffs, Ali “hAdji” Haïnouss talked in an interview about their chances in the event and the future of the French scene.
Vie: Your first game in the tournament was against HellRaisers and you managed to come out victorious. That must’ve felt like a great start?
hAdji: It felt great, of course! We overcame the Major Legends — that’s always a great feeling. At the same time, a victory against HR is very important one for our team spirit. I’m proud of my team. The start there has been really tough, we fell behind, but we managed to pick up ourselves and win.
Vie: What was the key moment for your comeback?
hAdji: I think it was the round where we clutched 2v4, or was it 2v5. We were in the lead already, something like 13:10 in rounds. But after that clutch, we were certain that this game was ours.
Vie: Some big names pulled out of StarSeries right before the event, but the tournament is still very stacked. How far are you aiming to get here in Kiev?
hAdji: I think our main goal is to make it to the playoffs. We would be really surprised if we couldn’t make it that far. And once we’re there — we’ll see. There’s nothing impossible.
Vie: How did you prepare for StarSeries?
hAdji: We did not prepare for this tournament at all. We had some issues — I’m not sure whether I can talk about it. We had a crisis of leadership in our team. Nexa isn’t our in-game leader anymore, but he has to do it, simply because there’s no one else in the team who can take on this responsibility.
At the same time, we played a lot of official games and qualifiers, which in the end left us with no time to practice.
Vie: But even still, you are one of the dark horses of the event. Does that help you?
hAdji: Yes, simply because we have nothing to lose. We’re performing at the highest level possible for us right now. There’s nothing holding us back and no outside factors to impact our game. We don’t care if we lose, that’s how we win.
Vie: But now other teams will be preparing for you.
hAdji: Of course, but we did not show any strategies. Let them prepare. We have a laidback style. You can’t counter us because our whole strat is simply about throwing a few nades and entering a site after a flashbang.
Vie: Let’s talk about your time with EnVyUs. After the roster disbanded, how did you deal with that?
hAdji: Those were difficult times. We were showing really bad results. A lot of leagues, official matches, after which you had no time or energy to prepare. I’m not looking for excuses — we played poorly and things did not go our way. After the announcement that we were released from our contracts, we played for a while together. We went to China. And then we wished each other the best of luck in the search for the next team.
After that, Neil_M (Imperial’s coach) got in touch and asked me to stand-in for them in the qualifier for this tournament. I did. We overcame OpTic and Space Soldiers online. After we successfully qualified for StarSeries they asked me to join them full time and I agreed. And now I’m here.
Vie: Do you think French Counter-Strike is experiencing some sort of crisis right now?
hAdji: Yes. At one point we had teams easily make it to Top 5 in the world ranking, now it’s an achievement if they can make it to Top 20. I’m hopeful in the new team with NBK and ZyWOo (Team Vitality), I think they will show good results. We played scrims against them and they showed really high-level CS. I think they will be a worthy French representative on the World stage.
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