‘Couldn’t play our best’: 33 praises Falcons but flags one major ESL concern

Following their loss to Falcons in ESL One Birmingham’s lower bracket quarterfinals, Team Liquid captain Neta “33” Shapira reflected on their tournament exit and overall performance, acknowledging that on the day, Falcons “were the better team,” but confessing he’s “pretty disappointed in ESL.”  

The ESL One Birmingham trophy sits to the front right of the image on stage. Behind, Team Liquid are competing
Team Liquid are left to look but not touch, with the trophy now out of their reach. Photo via Monster Energy

As a player, Neta is renowned for his mechanical and micro abilities. Translating these skills across in his role as captain is something he feels comfortable doing. “I just do what feels natural to me, and I don’t try to force myself to do things that I don’t feel come easy,” he explained. “Even though I’m captain, I don’t try to overstep and take responsibility away from other people. I don’t like to dictate the state of the game all on my own. It’s a game with five players, not one.” 

Despite Neta’s confidence in Team Liquid’s abilities, the elimination that followed at the hands of Team Falcons was a bitter disappointment for the players. Recognizing that they performed worse than they did against Heroic, 33 admitted, “nobody feels like we really played our best. It felt like the odds were stacked against us, but we do not make excuses. I guess we just feel a bit disappointed that we couldn’t play at maximum ability.”   

The team’s irritation stems from ESL’s venue and game management. “It was a very long day for us,” Neta explained. “Because the hotel is so far from the venue, we had to stay here all day. For the practice room, we didn’t have the best area to sit in and wait until our game.” 

Perhaps more concerning was the players’ lack of privacy, which Neta also referenced as a core reason for the team’s overall discomfort: “Falcons were in the room right next door to us, and we could hear each other talk. That was pretty frustrating. We couldn’t even talk about the games without being heard by our opponents.” 

With Dota 2’s intense need for strategy and tactics, it is understandable why players felt let down by the arrangements made for them, particularly when they had to play multiple series in one day and spent upwards of 10 hours on-site. 

Neta hopes the experience of his team will guide ESL’s next tournament to ensure players aren’t affected the same way in the future. “I would suggest that the hotels and the venue are [moved] closer to each other,” which would be especially important to the team, as they need to unwind and recuperate before facing their next opponent. While he acknowledged that this is not always possible, he added, “there needs to be a nice resting area in the venue. Obviously, privacy is important too.”

He concluded with a note of respect towards ESL as tournament organizers, noting that he understood why these difficulties occurred. However, he hopes that his pointers are taken into consideration for the good of his team and the competition as a whole. 

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