valde on leaving OG: “Our ambitions did not line up”

João Ferreira for PGL

In an exclusive interview with Dexerto, Valdemar ‘valde’ Bjørn Vangså talks about the decision to explore his options away from OG and what he seeks in his next team.

For valde, his next career move could define his legacy.

He is carefully weighing up his options after a disappointing 30-month tenure with OG, another chapter of a career that has been marked by unfulfilled promise. After a rocky tenure with North, in which at one point he even took it upon himself to lead the team, valde tried to turn a page when he joined OG right as the famed Dota 2 organization was entering the game, but it ended up being more of the same.

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João Ferreira for PGL
After over two years with OG, valde is ready to move on

His time with the international squad came to an end on May 11, when he was moved to the bench. The announcement came as OG are turning their focus to developing talent, which in esports is almost always used as a euphemism for making cutbacks.

“They want to focus on younger players and develop a team from scratch, only keeping a few pieces from the old team,” valde tells Dexerto. “And that’s not a direction in which I see myself going.

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“I was a part of building the original OG roster from scratch. I also tried a little bit of the same with North towards the end. So I feel that I am ready for a different team, one that is able to contend for trophies now and play in all the big tournaments.

“Our future ambitions did not line up, so I think it was pretty natural that we go our separate ways.”

Less than just two months ago, valde had spoken of how “happy” he was in OG and highlighted the progress the team had made since signing Nemanja ‘⁠nexa⁠’ Isaković to replace Aleksi ‘⁠Aleksib'” Virolainen. But their season was derailed when they failed to qualify for PGL Major Antwerp — the second Major in a row that they missed.

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valde was still willing to commit to OG, provided that “some significant roster moves” were made to upgrade the team’s firepower. But when it became clear that the organization wanted to move in a different direction, he had no choice but to seek a future elsewhere. It took a team like ENCE more than a year to get to where they are now after going down that same route. valde, who turns 27 next month, cannot afford to wait that long.

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“Everyone knows that your career does not last forever,” he says. “You have to make the most of it while you can. At the end of the day, nobody remembers who came in second place. For me, it’s about trying to win titles and being part of a team that has the same ambitions as me.

“I don’t want to be part of a project that is being started from scratch, but of a team that is already established and where I can be like the last piece of the puzzle.”

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Missing another Major

After two years of Aleksib leadership, playing in a new system felt like a breath of fresh air for the team — and the players made sure to point that out publicly. For nexa, too, the change of scenery was needed, although there were concerns about how committed to the role he was after expressing his wish to stop calling in G2.

It seemed like a win-win scenario for all parties involved, and the early signs were encouraging. OG secured a spot in the BLAST Premier Spring Finals after coming through a tough group that also included NAVI, Astralis, and MIBR before beating NIP in the playoffs.

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The first cracks appeared when the team went out of IEM Katowice in last place after losing to Heroic and MOUZ (who at the time were ranked 33rd in the world and had Jon ‘JDC’ de Castro as a stand-in). Everyone felt the weight of expectation building up ahead of the RMR, a defining moment for a team that had stumbled at the final hurdle in the qualifiers for the Stockholm Major.

Defeats to NAVI and forZe after a win against MOUZ put OG against the ropes in the RMR tournament. They survived their first elimination series against Unique but then fell short against Eternal Fire, leaving the players gutted and in disbelief.

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“It felt terrible,” he says. “I think we had no excuse, to be honest. We can only blame ourselves at the end of the day. We didn’t play well enough, we didn’t want it badly enough.

“We had good match-ups but the results weren’t there.”

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valde agrees with the assessment that the community put too much stock in the team’s early results. “In hindsight, I would say yes,” he says, calling the BLAST Premier Spring Groups run “a little bit overrated.” According to him, the team merely took advantage of their honeymoon period and the fact that opponents didn’t know at first how to prepare for this new version of OG. But once they were figured out, OG fell short in terms of consistency and were incapable of finding a way out of a slump.

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João Ferreira for PGL
nexa has come under fire for OG’s struggles, but valde says the entire team is to blame

Initially praised for the team’s improvements upon his arrival, nexa has suddenly seen community opinion turn against him. However, valde says that everyone is to blame for the team’s collapse.

“At the beginning, it really helped those players [flameZ and niko] that we got nexa,” he says. “But I think that towards the end it didn’t work.

“I cannot put all the blame on nexa, I think we all had our fair share of the blame. Individually, we didn’t perform well enough and we were not coherent as a team. We wanted to move in different directions and had different outlooks on the game.”

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As valde closes this chapter of his career, he looks back at this time with OG with mixed feelings. “It was a huge learning experience but it was also filled with a little bit of disappointment,” he says.

Despite the lack of titles or Major appearances, OG came close to breaking into the top five in the world rankings on multiple occasions and showed glimpses of brilliance here and there. But they were never able to take that extra step, the one that separates contenders from pretenders. In some tournaments, OG looked like an elite side; in others, they were little more than also-rans.

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“We came close to winning tournaments and really breaking through,” valde notes. “But we consistently failed to take the final leap to be a really good team.

“I really enjoyed playing with a lot of different players, and I also met a lot of amazing people in the organization. But at the end of the day, results matter a lot. That’s what you can look back on when you’re not playing anymore.”

Career goals

With only seven months left on the contract that he signed in April 2021, valde should be courted by plenty of teams as the end of a Major cycle always brings a flurry of roster activity.

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valde says there is no preference for his next team to be Danish or international as he sees pros and cons to both options. “It would be easier to play with a Danish team in terms of the language and the culture,” he explains. “With an international team, there are more options available but it might be harder to get really good teamplay going and stuff like that.”

A new challenge could give valde the chance to flourish again in a central role after he took a back seat for most of his OG spell for the team’s sake. However, he says that he can just as well continue to play “a more supportive/anchor role” as long as his teammates “are good enough to fill the other roles”. It all depends on the team. But he wants to make one thing clear: He has no interest “whatsoever” in being an in-game leader again.

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For all of his teams’ shortcomings, valde has remained a consistent performer, both on LAN and online. But with a solitary appearance on HLTV’s Top 20 player ranking, in 2018, and only one Big Event title to his name, from DreamHack Masters Stockholm, his place in the pantheon of Danish Counter-Strike isn’t even assured — something that was almost unthinkable when he rocketed to the top of the game with Heroic in 2016 and 2017.

Adela Sznajder/ESL Gaming via ESPAT
valde insists he’s as hungry as ever and wants to win the titles that proved elusive in North and OG

This is why it’s so important for valde to make up for lost time. After years of heartbreaks, near-misses and underperforming rosters, he wants to be more than a good player on a decent team. He is craving what he feels is rightfully his: a spot on a top team that can challenge for the biggest titles.

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“I’m at a stage where I need to make the right decisions,” he says. “That’s also why I decided that I don’t want to join another mediocre team where things are not going right and where I am not happy.

“I’m still super motivated. I love competing and I love playing the big tournaments, so I want to find a team that can help me reach my goals and that I can help reach theirs. I feel like I have been a really consistent player, taking into account the roles I have had.

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“I still believe I can play at the top level. So it’s about finding the right team to show it. Hopefully, the right offer will come my way.”

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