In his first interview since joining BIG, Nicklas ‘gade’ Gade opens up about the long wait to find a new home following North’s disbandment. “I definitely knew that I wasn’t done with competing,” he says.
The Danish player was unveiled by BIG last month, taking Ismailcan ‘XANTARES’ Dörtkardeş’ spot in the German team’s starting lineup. The signing caught many by surprise, especially considering that gade had only represented Danish teams and had never publicly spoken about the possibility of one day playing in Germany.
What many don’t know is that this was a move three years in the making.
The first talks with the German organization happened in 2018, when gade was still representing North Academy. Nothing came of it at the time and he wound up going in a different direction, but the seed was planted.
“I had some talks with [BIG manager] Christian Lenz at the time, we discussed a lot of stuff that we had the same thoughts about,” gade tells Dexerto.
“I think we just came to the conclusion that this could be a good fit [for everyone] but I chose to go with OpTic. I was not sure what was going to happen with their team, but we clicked really well.
“Then, this time around, I talked to tabseN, shot my shot with him, and said that if anything was going to happen in the team, he could reach out. Ever since I had that talk with Christian Lenz it was in the back of my head that one day it could be an opportunity, and I’m just happy that it happened now.”
After a seven-month loan with OpTic, gade returned to North to join the organization’s main squad, which often came under scrutiny for poor international performances. In February 2021, the Danish organization ceased all operations, citing the global health crisis’ impact on the esports industry as the reason to pull the plug on the project.
gade went on to assemble HYENAS, a motley group of Danish players, all looking for a fresh start. But the team never clicked and ended up disbanding after only a handful of tournament appearances.
One of HYENAS’ players, Markus ‘Kjaerbye’ Kjærbye, a Major winner with Astralis in 2017, has since retired from professional CS. These are uncertain times in the Counter-Strike scene for many who, for one reason or another, are not at the very top, but gade says he never feared that he wouldn’t be able to find a new team.
“As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait,” he says. “I was just being patient, keeping myself warm. I was still active in the scene, talking to people and just playing a lot of FACEIT. I could just feel not being done with CS, not at all. I definitely knew that I wasn’t done with competing.
“I think I also showed pretty good form in the HYENAS project, where I was also managing players and leading, which was a good challenge.
“The project was definitely not a waste, I think it was a good thing to do. We also had the chance to join some organizations but it never came to any conclusion.”
In a video posted on Twitter, gade announced his new home in almost fluent German, leaving many dumbfounded. He had studied the language in school for several years, and even though he admits that finding the right words can be challenging at times, he says that communication inside the game “is not a problem.”
“Outside of the game, when we’re talking, sometimes I lack a few words, but the other players are really great and speak fluent English,” gade says.
“German is a challenge for me, but I’m always down for a challenge. I’m eager to learn. I had some classes during my holiday, and just speaking the language now on a daily basis will help me improve even more.”
His desire to learn and improve will be key as BIG prepare for their first challenge of the new season. They have been placed in a tough group in ESL Pro League Season 14 that includes NAVI, mousesports, the new-look fnatic, and Evil Geniuses.
The German team will be determined to get the new campaign off to a great start after falling short of expectations during the first seven months of the year, when they won just one title (FunSpark ULTI 2020 Europe Final). By this time last year, they already had three titles to their name and were sitting at the top of the world rankings.
In announcing the new player, BIG praised gade’s ability to help in-game leader Johannes ‘tabseN’ Wodarz inside and outside of the game due to his past experience as a shot-caller. Questioned about his role, the Danish player stresses that there are no plans for him to take the mantle from tabseN.
“He’s doing a great job with that and I’m going to leave that to him,” gade notes. “I’d like to be the secondary voice in the team and have a lot of impact with mid-round calling, but I’m not trying to change anything.
“I’m just trying to come into the team, see how everything works, and then slowly adapt and find my own way of contributing.”
Sticking to the grind
To some BIG fans, gade represents an underwhelming acquisition. He wasn’t really a standout player for North (1.01 HLTV rating) yet here he is, replacing XANTARES, a player hailed for his mechanical prowess.
However, gade is unworried about having big shoes to fill.
“For my own sake, I wouldn’t say there is a drop in firepower, but we’ll see how it goes,” he says. “I know XANTARES is a great player, super skilled. You can’t take that away from him.
“But I think I have other assets to add to the team.”
After the uncertainty that followed North’s disbandment, gade can’t help but seize the moment. He is finding joy again in a stable environment and wants to repay the trust put in him by the organization and the team.
“I’m just happy to be back in a team that is contending for titles,” he says. “It means a lot to be playing against top-tier teams, in top-tier tournaments again. I’m taking one match at a time and learning from them.
“I want to improve myself and the team. Hopefully, we will bring BIG back to the top five very quickly.”