It has been just about half a year since Bravado Gaming (BvD) sent their CS:GO side to America for Project Destiny, so we figured it would be great to catch up with ESEA Mountain Dew League (MDL) All-Star, Aran ‘Sonic’ Groesbeek’, to find out how things are going.
Six months ago, BvD undertook the extremely ambitious task of setting up a CS:GO shop in the US of A. The idea behind it was simple: Give the team every opportunity to succeed without the drawbacks of being stuck in an internet backwater at the bottom of Africa.
It’s been a tough road to be sure, which wasn’t wholly unexpected. Bravado may have had arguably the top CSGO side in South Africa when they left (GLHF: Very arguably if you’re Energy Esports.), but that doesn’t mean anything to the American CS:GO scene where there are literally hundreds of teams full of talented players looking to achieve similar goals.
They began life in America with the ESEA North America Main League and they dominated (GLHF: After forfeiting their first game because it was scheduled for before they’d even arrived state-side.), which qualified them for the vastly more lucrative Mountain Dew League (MDL).
One of the keys to their success has undoubtedly been Sonic, who has had American casters consistently gushing about his performances pretty much since he set foot on United States soil.
However, not everything went so smoothly. After also qualifying for the ECS Season 5 North America Challenger Cup, they lost both matches to finish 7th/8th in the eight-team event. That was followed by three losses at the WESG World finals, losing to Space Soldiers, ORDER and TeamOne.
They also failed to qualify for DreamHack Masters Marseille and IEM Sydney, but it was clear they were starting to hit their stride and were putting in some strong performances against very good teams.
Just in time for the ESEA MDL, which was no accident according to rising star Sonic.
“All I can say is that when we arrived there was so much we didn’t know, but I’ll always believe we have what it takes. I wouldn’t be here with the boys if I didn’t believe in their abilities and my own.
When we arrived in the States we noticed a lot of flaws and mistakes in our gameplay both as a team and individually. We worked hard to iron them out to get to a level where we felt we could comfortably compete against the lower half of pro league teams and dominate the MDL teams.
We’re still learning but we’re doing it quick. We came really close to qualifying for these tournaments but always ended up falling just short or being knocked by the finalists. Although it’s frustrating at times it also shows we were nearly there.
A couple steps more and we’ll be there. We’ve matched our goals, yet also exceeded and failed in some.”
We spoke to him shortly before their historic 2-1 win over Vision in the Grand Final of the ESEA MDL to claim a significant piece of silverware on American soil. So there’s almost certainly a few more ticks in the ‘goals achieved’ column now.
Not to mention the opportunity for a few cheeky jabs at the American teams for being outdone by our boys in blue.
— RoBoHoBo (@lucatucconi) 27 July 2018
It has been an incredible team effort, there is no doubt about that, but Sonic in particular has had a special impact on the land of opportunity.
The viewing public voted him into the MDL All-Star game, which is a hugely flattering gesture for any player, let alone one from another country (GLHF: We don’t have to mention the possibility of a very small amount of vote boosting being done on South African social media at the time.).
“It’s a good sign for me as it shows I’m on the right track as a player. Achievements such as this add to my confidence and motivation.
It allows me to showcase my talents in an international squad and to bring some limelight to South Africa’s Counter-Strike scene.
Even though it’s just a 10-man, you’re among nine other players who have lived and breathed CS for as long, if not longer, than you. So they have certain expectations when you play with them.
It means a lot to me but I see it as I see every game, I’m there to prove myself. It’s also great exposure for Bravado.
Of course, I owe it to my team. We all share the same dream and uplift one another to get there.”
We have to admit, he’s being way more humble than we would’ve been in his situation.
The fact of the matter is, though, Bravado’s continued success has the potential to be a big game changer for South African esports.
For so many years we’ve been shouting that our players are good enough, but it’s difficult for the rest of the world to hear us from so far away and Bravado are now doing the talking for the entire community right in their faces.
And it isn’t just on the efield either. The never-idle CEO of Bravado, Andreas ‘cent’ Hadjipaschali, recently announced a partnership with Erin Patton, the brand architect behind Nike/Jordan.
America is getting pretty close to a fully-matured professional esports environment, so the opportunities there are huge. It’s also an atmosphere that has clearly helped Sonic thrive.
“The work ethic and the environment stands out the most for me. Here in the US we eat, sleep and CS. Our schedule starts at 11am and ends at 8pm every day, so it feels more like a job whereas in South Africa it felt like a hobby.
As far as the environment goes there’s a high-level competitive atmosphere. There are many more teams competing and putting in the same amount of time. Quality over quantity! There’s always a team to practice against or a full deathmatch server, anytime of day.
It’s a great experience all round. The knowledge we’ve obtained and the skills we’ve developed throughout this project are invaluable. The environment is highly competitive and intense, it’s like a dream come true.”
Unfortunately, unlike in the movies, having your dream come true is not the end of the story.
“I was happy with my performance throughout the year so far but I’m far from satisfied. I put up some good showings against a couple of top-tier teams, but I only ever want more out of myself. I’m not sure if that’s always a good thing, haha.”
It’s good to want more if it’s to better yourself, not so much when it’s 3am, you’re onto your fourth Red Bull and you need to get up for work or school in three hours. Thankfully BvD and Sonic do not have that problem.
While it’s clear the success is not going to their heads, that hasn’t stopped Bravado setting some pretty lofty goals for the remainder of the year.
“Next season we expect to be contenders for the Pro League as well as making a minor, hopefully even a Major.
We’re proud of what we’ve achieved thus far and are excited for the future, you’re just gonna have to wait and see! ;)”
Until then, though, it’s back home for some very well deserved rest and relaxation.
“We’re heading back to South Africa for a break to reset and grab a packet of biltong on our way in.”
Of course, you have to stock up on the essentials.