The comparison between sports and esports can be cutesy or awkward, but sometimes a story rings out. Watching Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev win his first major CSGO tournament was a cathartic moment for his fans, friends and family. And for fans of the most popular game on the planet – soccer – it may also have been extremely reminiscent of a moment in the sport that happened recently, for another individual who is hailed by many as the greatest to have ever done.
Our protagonists here are both relatively young men, unsure of their place in the world, but endowed with supernatural talent, and their journey from difficult prodigy to ‘greatest of all time’ (GOAT) status. is not new. Nothing ever beats easy, and the stories of so many GOATs seem to reflect it: from Federer to Hamilton and many others including a Lionel Messi, the example of world football.
In terms of notoriety, it’s probably fairer to say that s1mple is Counter-Strike’s Messi, and the comparison is far from straightforward, of course. Both men have won titles over the years, with Messi being one of the most decorated players in the history of the sport, but both were still looking for an elusive crown that would finally allow them to shake off the skeptics and keep their heads. high like the biggest ever, no asterisk required.
For those who are not steeped in the CSGO culture, the biggest event of the year is the Major, with nothing else in terms of prestige or pressure. Unlike Dota, Valve’s flagship CSGO tournament doesn’t have a tantalizing prize pool that makes it sit on the schedule like a bowling ball on a tricky soufflé, but in many other ways it defines the year. One major title takes precedence over everything else.
For s1mple, however, it was the only title that eluded him. His talent was clear to all, with pundits and pundits happy to proclaim him the best player in the world, but his results on the biggest stage didn’t match that. No matter how well he played: Something always went wrong in previous Na’Vi rosters, with issues often coming from the leadership group and game leader Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko.
There was also the small matter of competition, with Danish team Astralis having dominated the Majors for several years, winning three Majors in a row between 2018-19 and four in total. Their system wasn’t built on star power or the ability to kill, but a better understanding of how the game could and should work, and a greater level of team synergy than we’ve ever seen. in the history of the game. The Astralis system seemed to completely trump the individual genius of s1mple when the two teams met in the final, which was common in 2018 especially.
It’s fair to point out that Astralis was never really defeated by s1mple and co. The Danish organization was finally eaten from the inside, their stars abandoned them for bigger salaries, and their luster was lost due to time and blockages. But then again, s1mple was still the greatest even when Astralis was at its peak, even though the record books showed other names with more titles, and he maintained that greatness until Astralis was no longer. .
It’s also fair to say that the Na’Vi themselves endured and evolved even under the oppressive reign of Astralis. The romantic reunion with his former IGL Andrii “B1ad3” Horodenskyi, now Na’Vi’s coach, and the rebuilding of the squad from his Zeus / Edward / Flamie days to what Na’Vi became in 2021, gave teammates singles like Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskyi and Denis “electronic” Sharipov, no longer expecting him to carry the server solo every time. The team has evolved around s1mple, and in turn it has evolved to meet even higher standards.
Just like s1mple, Messi also lacked an international trophy in his cabinet, and as s1mple he faced more than just internal issues. His national team was not in the best place, as a succession of managers could not convert talent into trophies. Despite being just one of 11 men and often the best player on the team, the blame has often been placed on Messi’s feet.
Messi also had to face teams like Germany and Spain during his lifetime, who had less individual talent but played in a system that made them dominant. Both teams were based on fantastic clubs in Barcelona and Bayern respectively. The two had long stretches like the best in the world, just as Messi was reaching and entering his prime, meaning his chances of winning a World Cup were drastically reduced, regardless of his personal performance.
Until this summer, when Messi finally hoisted the Copa America trophy high, that fact was used against him in the endless debate over whether he or Cristiano Ronaldo was the tallest in the world. That conversation was often fueled by Ronaldo’s only international title to his name, the European Championship – a fact fans would take away from Messi when others tried to back his GOAT credentials.
Now, for those who watch football a lot and study the game as an art, it seems obvious that while Cristiano Ronaldo is a force of nature, there isn’t much of a comparison between him and Messi in terms of overall talent. While Ronaldo has maximized every ounce of his ability with a ruthless and uncompromising commitment to self-improvement (from a sporting point of view) to become one of the greatest scorers to ever touch the game, Messi is right on another level as a player, with a vision and ability few, if any, have possessed.
Likewise, while it was clear that s1mple’s ability set him apart from the pack, the CSGO GOAT conversation always had other names. Fans of some teams may have tried to squeeze Kenny “kennyS” Schrub or Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut into the mix, but in reality the only name that comes close is Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz, the man. star of the hegemonic era of Astralis.
On paper, dev1ce was clearly the better player, with several titles under his belt and stats to rival anyone you’d want to pit him against. His fans have pointed out that CSGO is a team game, and s1mple’s failures could be a sign that he is not a great teammate, just as detractors of Messi would point to Ronaldo’s only international trophy as proof that he is. he was taller than Messi in the greatest moments, despite Ronaldo not actually playing a role in the final won by Portugal.
At the server, however, it was the other way around. dev1ce worked her best to maximize her talent and advance the art of Counter-Strike, where s1mple effortlessly produced (or so it seemed) moments that made your jaw drop. The sight test favored the Na’Vi man, but his fans always had to face the same taunt: that he didn’t have a major title and that he needed it to be truly considered. the GOAT of the game.
Today, with a mere crowned Major champion and Messi in possession of a major international trophy, there is no longer a debate over who the GOAT is. The arguments on paper will exist until the end of time, but anyone who has watched and studied CSGO knows that s1mple is simply the best we’ve seen so far, and now he has the CV to prove it.
Interestingly, for Messi and s1mple, he was a former mentor and former player who seemed to be the catalyst for their success. When Pep Guardiola joined Barcelona, Messi was a great player, but not the superhuman monster who dominated the game for a decade or more, in the same way that s1mple was still incredibly talented, but couldn’t fulfill his dreams until now. ‘that his former IGL and friend B1ad3 take control of the team and the Na’Vi system.
It is proof, if it were needed, that even in a team game you cannot do it alone, even if you are single or Messi. With everything in place around s1mple’s with a squad capable of playing the level of CS required to dominate the biggest tournaments in the game, this could be a defining moment for the Ukrainian star as we enter the Na’Vi era, and as it cements its place as the greatest by every metric.