Vito “kNgV-” Giuseppe is eager to return to action and hone his skills abroad once again, but he won’t let emotions distract him from the task at hand.
Three months ago, as MIBR were eliminated by OG in the lower bracket final of Flashpoint 2, fans were left with the impression that it was the start of a new era for the team and that the dark clouds had finally been lifted. With kNgV- and Alencar “trk” Rossato already tied to MIBR, getting the rest of the players seemed like a fairly straightforward exercise.
But the peace didn’t last long. Just days into the new year, it came to light that talks with the North American organisation had broken down, leaving the future of the team in doubt. Head coach Raphael “cogu” Camargo openly lambasted MIBR and claimed that he had been “treated like trash” by the organisation, with kNgV- later revealing that he had been asked to accept a “75 per cent devaluation for a contract renewal.”
With players scattered across four different organisations (Henrique “HEN1” Teles was later brought on board), it could take a while for the team to be reunited. Just how long are they willing to wait to find the right home? Well, according to kNgV-, as long as it takes. After all, the team is known as O PLANO — which translates as “The Plan”.
When I spoke with you at the end of November, you said the following: “I have a good relationship with MIBR, we have spoken a lot, especially after the departures of TACO and fer. I think our relationship has got a bit tighter.” What changed?
Indeed, we had a close relationship, I had some honest talks with [Immortals Gaming Club CEO] Ari Segal and [MIBR Director] Fly before building the last lineup, I gave my feedback about what was happening at the time and I made it clear that I had a plan to build a team with LUCAS1, HEN1 and trk. The only thing that changed was that we could not negotiate our renewal, we did not have that opportunity.
When you decided not to speak with MIBR anymore, was there truly a plan, or were you operating on the faith and conviction that you would be able to find an organisation?
It was MIBR that decided not to negotiate with us, they made an offer, which they said was final, and told us that we should let them know as soon as possible if we were not going to take it. That’s what we did, we did not have the opportunity to negotiate. Fly made it clear before we travelled that we should not have high expectations about the renewal. Based on that, we started thinking about which steps we would take if we did not renew. It would have been imprudent on our part to make a decision involving seven people based on faith. Our convictions were based on ourselves, we know what we are.
The average age on our team is 25 years, which means we’re a young team, with the core of a Major finalist team, with three rising talents and a coach that won multiple championships. We have a team that has been tested against tier-one opponents and that climbed 220 places in the ranking in 30 days, breaking viewership records. Our team has a lot of impact on social media and is probably the most popular team in Brazil right now. Can you find another lineup like this in the market? These are our convictions.
Did you expect it to be this hard to find an organisation?
Yes, we knew it would not be simple to find an organisation. Just like it’s hard to find a lineup with our characteristics, it is not simple to find an organisation to support a tier-one team. The difficulties when it comes to negotiations are part of the game.
A month ago, cogu said that there were talks with Flamengo and Envy. How are these and other negotiations going?
We are in a period that we call ‘road show’. We are open to offers and we are evaluating the opportunities that are being presented to us.
As time goes by, the window of opportunity gets shorter, and soon the team will start dropping down in the ranking. Do you feel pressure to find an organisation? Do you feel that you are gambling with your careers?
I do not think that the window of opportunity is getting shorter; in fact, it will get bigger in the following months. I do not feel that we are gambling with our careers. On the contrary, I think we are preserving our careers. The choice of a new organisation needs to be carefully made. We are the ones who will be signing contracts, we need to have synergy with our new home, our careers and dreams will be tied to that organisation.
We are aware of the difficulties and the pressure to compete at the top, and we are searching for an organisation that can provide a healthy and productive environment so that we can give our best. To reach the top you have to be 110 per cent committed, and we need support.
Given the current economic climate because of the COVID-19 pandemic, do you think it is difficult to find an organisation willing to meet the release clauses of so many players? Are Sharks, MIBR, FURIA and DETONA willing to negotiate?
The coronavirus has had a financial impact everywhere and it has been a tough situation for everyone around the globe, but we cannot escape the fact that our scene has grown during the pandemic and that there is a wave of new [business] people entering esports. If we look exclusively at CS:GO, we can see more and more football clubs building their lineups, we can also see successful football players building teams based on their brands.
I believe there are opportunities. Our representatives and our lawyers have talked to the teams we are contracted to, and they are willing to negotiate. They each have their own terms.
What’s the atmosphere in the team like, with all this uncertainty?
The atmosphere is getting better and better, we are focused on our game while we are in Brazil trying to find an organisation. We are working daily to improve our game and build interesting things for our next challenges. We are letting our representatives deal with this situation of uncertainty, we are focused on in-game matters.
What’s the financial situation of the team members like? How long are you able to stay in this situation, with lower salaries because players are on the bench, or, in the cases of cogu and LUCAS1, no salaries at all?
We knew there was a chance that we might not be able to play for a while. We are comfortable with that situation. Lucas and cogu are both popular on social media, they have financial opportunities to be able to stay comfortable and negotiate their future in peace.
Do you regret the way you publicly criticised MIBR during negotiations? MIBR have said that they no longer wanted to have a team that controlled its own fate, and that is why they hired staff members to lead the project. Other organisations have also taken the reins of their teams, giving players less freedom to make decisions. Don’t you think that this label of a ‘rebel team’ could hamper negotiations?
I don’t know if ‘regret’ is the right word. MIBR’s representative admitted that the situation could have been handled better. From my perspective, it was a one-off situation. Having technical staff that decide which players should play based on performance is different from having an organisation that decides the fate of a player. Organisations do not decide the fates of players, we have employment contracts, and like in any other contracts, we have rights and obligations.
I don’t think it’s correct to label us ‘rebels’ because we did not accept MIBR’s offer. We have the right to refuse offers that we believe are not interesting for us. We’ve shown that we are the opposite of rebels; we were highly praised by MIBR’s sponsors and we were responsible for attracting new sponsors.
You have been streaming a lot lately to strengthen the ties with fans and to keep the discussion about the team alive. What else are you planning to do? What kind of messages have you received?
Yes, we did a live stream that was very successful, we had 35,000 people on average watching us practice and it generated almost 500,000 impressions. It was unreal. We’ve built a very strong connection with our fanbase, we feel their support and we have the responsibility to be as close to them as possible, and this was a way to do that. We will continue to do new things to be even closer to them. We are planning new stuff, which we will announce soon.
Have you set a deadline to find an organisation? Or are you in this until the end?
There is no deadline. We are analysing the offers we have, and we are open to new offers. We are in this until the end. We offer the sort of things that are the hardest for an organisation to find: a highly-competitive team with synergy both inside and outside of the game and that is focused on winning. We hope to be back on the server as quickly as possible.