PGL Major Antwerp will begin in only a few days’ time, but instead of discussing the amazing storylines leading up to the event, we find ourselves discussing another chapter of a saga that drags on with no end in sight.
All of a sudden, the discussion has shifted.
We’re no longer talking about Bad News Eagles’ remarkable journey, Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen’s chances of breaking his Major duck with the best FaZe roster in history, or NAVI’s ability to defend their Stockholm crown.
For the past 24 hours, the infamous coach bug has been at the forefront of the CS:GO scene’s consciousness.
It all began with an announcement from the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) that three unnamed coaches attending the upcoming Major in Antwerp had been provisionally suspended after using one of the more serious variants of the spectator bug. A fourth coach, also unnamed, was found to have used the third-person view bug, but due to the low risk that this variant poses he will be allowed to coach in Belgium.
The suspense began brewing immediately after the news broke, even though by then it was already common knowledge that Luís ‘peacemaker’ Tadeu was one of the three suspended coaches. The Brazilian had encountered the free roam variant of the bug – the most powerful of the three, which gave coaches the ability to ‘fly’ undetected around the map.
Dexerto knows the manner in which ESIC announced the suspensions, without immediately naming the coaches involved, created tension among teams attending the Major. Some coaches began to wonder whether they were getting suspended as in the past there had been instances of coaches not being contacted by ESIC before it communicated its findings to the public.
If it sounds strange that a coach who should have nothing to fear feels this way, it is important to keep in mind that the cases can go as far back as 2016. In those six years, coaches were involved in hundreds of official games, not to mention daily scrims, and until August 2020, when the spectator bug was made public, few people had a comprehensive knowledge of what this glitch was. Adding to this climate of uneasiness is the shoot-first, ask-questions-later policy that was the norm in the first wave of bans and in the Australian investigation (remember about that?).
Over the past two months, Dexerto has reached out to a number of coaches who have experienced the spectator bug in some form and are being investigated by ESIC. Most of them expressed surprise after being presented with evidence and insisted having no recollection of these cases. They claimed that they regarded the bug as just an abnormality when they encountered it and thought nothing of it.
An endless story
On the afternoon of May 6, ESIC finally confirmed the names of the three coaches who had been provisionally suspended. Imperial’s peacemaker, 9z’s Rafael ‘zakk’ Fernandes, and Spirit’s Sergey ‘hally’ Shavaev have all been presented with notices of charges and an intended sanction. The trio has been given an unspecified amount of time to respond to the charges.
Before that, however, Spirit and 9z had already come out to confirm that their coaches were being suspended for the Major. In a statement also posted on Reddit, the CIS organization accused ESIC of “attacking coaches who simply cannot defend themselves” and questioned the legitimacy of the association.
9z founder and CEO Francisco Postiglione then added to the noise as he urged the team’s fans to express support by using the hashtag #FreeZakk so that PGL would take notice.
Without getting into the argument of whether these suspensions are justifiable (that itself is another discussion), it is easy to see why the timing of ESIC’s announcement couldn’t have been worse: teams had until five days before the start of the Major to change their coach. With the May 5 announcement happening after that deadline, the affected teams were left without the option to find a replacement.
If ESIC had informed teams/coaches of these findings 5 days prior to the beginning of the major instead of 3/4, then teams would have been allowed to change their coach+sub roster submission prior to the lock.https://t.co/1Y4U4tHTlr
Major oversight, or intentional punishment? pic.twitter.com/xlOykGkGvJ
— Graham Pitt (@messioso) May 6, 2022
And then there’s also the question of why ESIC sat on this information for over a year, with Michal Slowinski (the tournament admin that played a central role in uncovering the bug scandal in 2020), stating that by the end of March 2021 he had completed his investigation and provided ESIC with the list of all cases.
This is something that ESIC will eventually have to answer for and that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth: Charged with one and one and a half rounds of the static bug, respectively, hally and zakk would have been able to attend the Antwerp Major if ESIC had published its findings in a timely manner. Even if found guilty, they would have been banned for the Stockholm Major only.
But this is still not over, far from it, with almost a hundred coaches left to formally charge. Many chapters are to follow, and like a Mexican telenovela, it will have many twists and turns, the suspense and the noise continuously sucking the life out of the esport.
Until all this is done and we get some sort of closure, we are bound to keep revisiting this story, each time with different protagonists. This is what we are doing right now, instead of talking about 9z making history for South American CS, IHC Esports being the first Mongolian representative at a Major, or Imperial’s Last Dance.
Monday can’t come soon enough.