As NaVi took to the stage at IEM Katowice on February 25th, legendary AWPer Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev delivered a heartfelt message of peace to CS:GO fans across the world as conflict worsened between Russia and Ukraine.
The team took to the stage to receive their Intel Grand Slam trophy, a prestigious award that recognizes the first team to win at four Major events out of a pool of ten throughout the course of a year. NaVi took the trophy in 2021, and finally received their award today after months of waiting.
What should have been a joyous affair for NaVi quickly became solemn, however, when s1mple took the microphone from host Oliver James Borg ‘OJ Borg’ D’Anastasi to deliver a message to the hundreds of thousands of fans watching around the world.
S1mple, who is a Ukrainian national, has spoken on social media about his fears regarding the crisis in Ukraine, mentioning that he has family living in some of the worst-affected areas of the country. On the IEM stage, he spoke of the friends he has made in the CS:GO community, and how, despite their nationalities, none of CS:GO’s pros had “anything to do with government decisions.”
Controversy in the CS:GO scene
The speech came only a day after rumors surfaced that multiple CS:GO organizations were preventing their players from expressing support for Ukraine during the conflict. Many players were quick to deny the rumors, with s1mple himself responding that the claims were untrue.
— Sasha (@s1mpleO) February 24, 2022
The message of his speech, delivered in his second language of English, was simple, but powerful.
“All of us want peace- for Ukraine, and for the whole world. All of us are scared, and all of us need to show an example at this tournament. We need to stay together as a unit, with our fans, with our friends, and with everybody watching. And we all need to stay humans first.”
IEM confirmed in a tweet that they were “closely monitoring” the situation in Ukraine, and that they were providing support to players and staff who may have been affected by the ongoing situation. S1mple’s message on February 25th was one of hope, and of bringing the esports community together in the face of international conflict.
We are closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine. Our current priority is to support the players, the talent and the staff who may be affected by it. The SC2 & CSGO tournaments will continue as planned.
— Intel® Extreme Masters (@IEM) February 24, 2022