Johnta: "Everyone in Esports is trying to stay away from such a problem as the war in Ukraine"
Today, the famous Ukrainian coach Ivan "Johnta" Shevtsov came to visit us. We talked to him about his current work at the Japanese club FENNEL, ANGE1's recent victory with FPX at an international tournament in VALORANT, and the development and future of Ukrainian eSports.
Originally this interview has posted on 1more.gg in Ukrainian. Here you can read the English version.
You are currently working in the Japanese club FENNEL. As I understand, you are acting head of VALORANT. What exactly do you do?
I was invited to teach them how to build the right work processes between him, the analyst, and management. At the same time, I take part directly in the preparation of the team. That is, I work with the team and sometimes with the help of “other hands”.
Now the Fennel club is undergoing some changes, in particular in management. They have different ways to do this at the highest level. I advise organizations to create a successful club in general, not only with VALORANT. Because FENNEL has several other disciplines: PUBG Mobile, Apex Legends Mobile, and Academy in VALORANT.
How does communication with the club's employees take place? Do they know English, and how does it all happen?
In general, everything is normal, and some people know English well. The coach with whom I worked studied for several years in Poland. He has no problems with the language. Also one of the managers speaks English quite well.
In Asia, teams like to work with several coaches/analysts simultaneously. For example, Koreans with DRX have three coaches at once, each performing its own task. Are you a supporter of this practice? Is it easier for you to work independently, maximum in pairs with an analyst?
I have recently studied many sports cases: basketball and football. I see how everything works there, which can be applied in cybersport. I think it is essential to have a coaching staff because two trainers are hard to teach all the essential nuances. You can work with people in such aspects as Game, psychology, and performance. At this rate, you can teach the whole team when and how to rest properly. You can also work individually with players.
I believe that the problem of esports, in general, is that many teams in different disciplines do not build the coaching staff which can lead the project. It is essential that coaches give impetus to motivated, coordinated players. There should be one concept that should be followed and adapted to its team.
It is also necessary to clearly understand the goals: What precisely goal should be achieved by the coaching staff? For example, to form the correct culture of work, which will remain after 4-5 solvers. In fact, this is an approach to the sport.
When I see G2 in CS:GO or teams with VALORANT in North America change players, I measure: "I don't know how to understand that all processes are created in the brain, analyze the result, and success is not only achieved by the conditions of someone who just knows how to shoot well enough."
We need to build a coaching staff and establish connections.
Have you got any offers from other teams except FENNEL?
So were: from Europe and North America. I have such a stage in my career now that I do not want to go somewhere where it will not be at a sufficiently deep level. For example, there were several clubs in North America where I did not communicate but just observed what they were doing. I asked what they tried to do and realized it was not mine.
Or there were proposals from Europe, Turkey, and MENA (the Middle East and North Africa), where they do not yet understand that we should start something serious. And I do not want to come and be in the following situation when the management does not know what to do.
Because I had such a case with Team Heretics, where everything should be super, they thought more about the players' comfort and did not understand enough how to be professionals. Because of this, there was a misunderstanding between the composition and management.
I just do not want to be in a club that is not ready to organize something severe and wants just to spend money. I am not interested to miss my time, despite the amount of money there will be. I have a lot of experience in cybersports, and I want to create something that will become a particular basis. And not just come, make a composition, change the players, earn money and go to the next club.
Now I hope that for FENNEL everything will be as planned. Specifically, I aim to form a club that can dominate the Japanese scene, where culture will take over for years, and academic foundations will develop.
There is a particular uncertainty about the future, as Riot presented a new franchise system. Now the end of the season, we are forming a new composition. I appreciate new players. So far, we are waiting for the response from Riot on our partnership in the league. And there I'll see how everything will be.
Every player and coach wants to work in the best leagues in the world. I have an agreement with the club. In case of FENNEL does not pass in the franchise league, and I will have an exciting offer from other clubs, I can safely go. But I am interested in working on a steep project with the Japanese.
The Masters in Copenhagen recently finished. The team you worked with, FPX, won this tournament. What is your overall impression of this event?
First, I was pleased to see how the FPX won because I know it is. They earned 100% of it. ANGE1 and d00mbr0s worked a lot, changed warehouses, and tested. They have communication with the club was not accessible. FPX is a big club in China. For example, any European club can quickly solve problems with the home camp, but the FPX makes it a little more complicated.
The FPX has long sought to build a foundation that will guarantee stability. As a result, they will be there for quite a long time. They now have a powerful composition. The last of their replacements were very good, and they took strong players. They have robust youth: Zyppan, Shao, and SUYGETSU. And also – experienced ANGE1 with initiative ardiis. The team has the right balance: There are not many votes. There is a strong voice ANGE1. In general, players know what to do.
Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
ANGE1 and d00mbr0s fall together. Kirill is such an IGL who is a little coach. We worked with him for quite a long time, progressed, and developed since HellRaisers. I have something he borrowed, and he has me. Kirill has a deep understanding of what is needed for success. It was in VALORANT he managed to use it at the maximum. D00mbr0s - coach of the analytical plan. He works well with the data, has ideas, and knows how to adapt them. I am pleased to see what they have created.
With HellRaisers, ANGE1 started playing with young, promising players with little experience. What do you think this is related to?
HellRaisers then had such a story. I had different difficulties there. One of the experienced Dosia, Adren, and mou. Then there was a period with s1mple in the team. Then ANGE1 took oskar, STYKO and Zero. It was the first international experience. They tried to go to the major, but failed. And oskar moved to mousesports.
When I came to the team, my task was to form a team. We then took DeadFox. He was young enough, and when I was at FlipSid3, he always played against us well. Later, the case went up.
Then there was the moment when we took woxic and ISSAA. There was a summer break, and we had to re-form the composition. During it, I watched a lot of matches and noticed them.
DeadFox then wanted to play as a second sniper, so we were looking for a sniper and a player for the role of STYKO, who went to mousesports. ANGE1 and I decided we needed to take players with raw talent, desire and self-confidence. And such players can be found on the FPL.
Kyrylo has a lot of experience in selecting players. He selects those who want to work and who have potential. When they took SUYGETSU, it was very distinguished in its region. But as for ardiis, perhaps, he was sure.
I think he needs players to listen and learn from him. Because you need people who can take what you give them. ANGE1 can give a lot. If he works with people who cannot do it, why do they miss their time?
He is no longer young, and he wants to win. Therefore, he chooses players who also want to win. He deserves it.
At this stage of ANGE1 career, is it for him more manageable to play with promising young players than with experienced ones who can pull the carpet on themselves?
Yes. ANGE1 is still a competitive player. Some captains and veterans do not think very much about the results of their game, and they wake up a little. I know Kyrylo, he sometimes wants to lose his nose to his star families, and we see it in the same game. He can be a top-fragger in some matches, take a clutch, and give a good shot. When you have players in your team who want to show themselves, this effect motivates ANGE1 to keep their level.
Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
I, a man who worked with him a lot, saw that in some moments, he somewhere again did not work. Or vice versa, somewhere, he did everything right, and the factors prevented him from achieving success. For example, at HellRaisers, we have always been close to clubs with much larger budgets. And we will somehow win them, although we played constant qualification, we have problems with home camps. It is difficult to achieve goals in such conditions, having much fewer resources and constantly competing with the rich clubs, which can come and take any player at any moment!
To succeed, it is necessary to bring the stars together. I am glad to see that ANGE1 has all turned out. This victory is crucial, pleasant, and deserved.
As you, in general, this Masters in terms of results, game teams, and performance. Have your expectations been met?
Yes, I am happy with this Masters. Maybe I wanted to see more spectators, but I understand that Riot just starts, test. I liked how the team played. In VALORANT, what is very cool? He is global! There are teams from different regions of the world. They are unique it is interesting to watch. I will say that there were almost no exciting matches.
I am pleased with this tournament because most of the matches were interesting. That's awesome.
Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
Now in top teams, players can play at once on some roles. Not just on different similar agents, namely on different roles. Do you think this will become an important indicator when choosing players?
I think that VALORANT should be adaptive. In general, there are two types of roles. The first time you are a performer, then an initiative. You do what you said. The second is when the players are more initiative. Such players, which (independently, what role they play – the resin or initiator) will always play as needed. And it adds to the competition.
In the teams I work in, I use this approach. Agents will change, they will be more. Even maybe once, there will be a veto before the game, with gangs of agents. Or it will be on each team of six players.
Adaptation to the opponent plays a considerable role.
VALORANT - this is a game where players from different disciplines have gathered. And we see that CS players in the majority of today in the top, then former representatives of PUBG, Fortnite, or Apex Legends. Will the situation become even once?
I noticed that CS’ers are more professional than players from other disciplines. Simply because CS has a high competition, and if they were at some decent level, they have already passed through a similar system, where they were better than others, had a well-built structure of work and relationships in the team than players with Fortnite. Players from the same Apex Legends or Fortnite – are more individual.
It is easier to work with CS’ers because they know what praccs are, how to study line-ups, and the right teamplay. But they have their own problem. Sometimes they try to play in VALORANT, as in CS:GO. But VALORANT is the CS half, Overwatch half. And we need to find a balance. When I was at FPX, ANGE1 sometimes joked, “guys, we’re playing too much in Overwatch”, or “guys, we’re playing too much in CS”.
What do you think about the equivalent of FPL in VALORANT? Does he need it? What is your opinion about the trend when professional players play many Ranked matches daily?
About the analog of the FPL, I think it is necessary. Because we have to play rating games. But it is necessary that they were qualitative. You do not need to play too much; a maximum of 2-3 rollers. It also does not interfere with the ability to rest from the game or the need for freshness and energy. We must look for this balance.
The Ranked game is necessary because you can notice something new yourself. For example, look at the game differently and allow sweating things you can't do in the team. Because the player's skill is formed from what is a team game and what is individual. And on the praccs, you mainly work on the team game. When you play a ranked, you work on some individual things that will help you in the team.
In July, you created the Discord channel "VALORANT UA" and, in general, took up the development of the Ukrainian stage in this game. The war affected you in this matter, whether you sooner or later would create such an initiative?
I thought about it long ago. I have always been interested in what players are in Ukraine. It began with CS, when I was at HellRaisers. In general, I have always been not all the same. I had a desire to develop something, to help the players. Contrary to what I saw in the Russian-speaking cybersport, which, unfortunately, we have, I thought, That VALORANT could be popular in Ukraine. Because this game is played now all over the world, we must also be part of the game.
We needed a platform that would be United. And I think that we will succeed.
Ukraine is a rather large country in Europe. Here, many people know what esports is and want to become part of this industry. How do you think we should try to go ourselves and create something similar to Turkey, where there is a national championship? Or do you still want to join the Eastern Europe region and compete there?
I believe that we need to be part of Europe because the stage of development is still in progress. Our players must compete with other stages and play the quality of the tournament. For example, it is one level of motivation when you want to become the best in Ukraine. And when you have a goal to become the best in all of Eastern Europe - it is another level. It is the competition that should lead us to a new level. And there we will see.
Five months ago, Russia's massive invasion of Ukraine began. Society reacted to this, for example, by imposing massive sanctions against Russia. As for sports, Russia is excluded from FIFA, and Russian clubs cannot play tournaments under the aegis of UEFA. But in esports, so far, there are no similar restrictions. Russian teams play international tournaments in various disciplines. For example, Cloud9 signed a Russian team with CS:GO. What are your thoughts on this situation?
Unfortunately, everyone in Esports is trying to stay away from such a problem as the war in Ukraine. And I see this in high-level tournaments and just by watching people. For example, some media people joke, comment on each situation and pay attention to it. And here is a super important topic for Europeans, who do not comment. Just try not to see this problem. Ignore it. And this indicates their immaturity. This is a problem.
How do I change it? It is difficult to say. Ukrainians need to talk about this without the appearance of madrones. In general, it is challenging to solve. There should be some organizations that would solve this issue, but there are no such organizations now. And I do not think that will soon be. It is simply global immaturity.
What are the elements of the Esports Community? Players and clubs. They have a higher weight. It can be a significant accent. But if they do nothing, then nothing will change. Why do we see Russia’s flag when it is the flag of the terrorist country? Let us do something about it. And what can I do? Post to write, well, someone put a like, make a repost. It is necessary that big players connect to this – clubs and tournament operators. They can change something. But there is no such thing, and nothing will change.
Here, for example, FPX. Our Ukrainian ANGE1 plays with two Russians in the team. They win the tournament, together rejoice, and continue to play. Society looks at this and believes there can be relations between Russians and Ukrainians. They can communicate and play in one team. What to do with this?
Here we should not go to extremes and compare almost every Russian with their inadequate compatriots. In the sense that esports and gaming have always been to the side of this whole. Ukrainian Esports has always been a part of Russian-speaking. Unfortunately, this is our reality.
I have the following attitude: these players did nothing. Let them act under a neutral flag, as at the Olympics. Example FPX – ANGE1. He started to play with Russians before a full-scale invasion. If I knew better about our relations with the Russians, I would have claims to the players even before a full-scale invasion. But I did not understand it, as did many of our citizens. At the civilian level. Moreover, the understanding of politics and relations somehow became blurred in esports. Because we played together in some teams, worked, and went to tournaments.
Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
In the FPX, two Russian players. ANGE1 plays with them. For example, we cannot condemn the moments before the full-scale invasion because this would mean we do not understand the reality in recent years. In my opinion, the correct decision of the players from the terrorist country does not represent it. This is the most appropriate solution, where we do not switch to individual personalities. And where are ordinary people, who are hard to see in this horror, to understand that they are representatives of the terrorist country? But what can they do?
Someone may have moved, but someone cannot transport his family. This is a difficult situation. Here we need to find a reasonable approach, not a radical approach.
Last question. How do you guess how long it takes for Ukrainian esports to get its identity?
I think that when the hot phase of the war ends and the military situation stops, Ukrainian clubs will start working in this direction. In my opinion, it will take several years. Maybe two years, and we will see a concrete rise. I personally will help as I can.