A special thanks to ZenGaming co-manager DangerZone for setting up the interview with awkward.
The roster of Team Israel may look familiar to those who followed the ESL Go4Overwatch weeklies last month, even for those who didn't pay attention to anything other than the finals. That is because Israel's team is composed of the roster of ZenGaming eSports, the team that went on to play Vivi's Adventure in the weekly finals twice in July.
While using a full club team is not an anomaly in the Overwatch World Cup, especially at the Santa Monica qualifier where Brazil and Taiwan are doing the same thing, no nation can make an argument for pulling directly from their best team better than Israel, with the possible exception of Vietnam. ZenGaming isn't just Israel's top team, they are the country's only professional team and very few, if any, of Israel's players are playing for relevant multi-national teams. ZenGaming is truly Israel's national Overwatch team.
This will be the biggest stage that anyone on the Israeli roster has ever played on. Most would assume a team under these conditions are nervous, with tempered expectations, but that's not Israel. They are confident, itching to turn some heads and usurp the favorites in their qualifier. Israeli flex support awkward, already in California, was able to make some time to talk about himself, his team, and Israeli Overwatch as a whole before their big weekend in Santa Monica:
How do you feel going into playing on such a large, international stage like this? To my knowledge, you're the most recent addition to the ZenGaming roster as well, do you believe this gives you an opportunity to prove yourself to people who may not have known who you were before playing for ZG and Team Israel?
awkward: So first of all playing in such a large international tournament is a very new experience to the whole Israeli team and for me as well. I feel very excited and pumped to show what we are capable of as a team and individually, because I personally feel like every player on our team is very talented. Yes, I am indeed the most recent addition to ZenGaming eSports roster, I did not have any experience in Overwatch on any team beforehand, I've been playing since the end of Season 3 which requires me to try and catch up really fast to the established pro scene. I've finished in top 500 highest ranked players on EU within a season. I don't think of this opportunity as a chance to prove myself individually, it's mostly that I think about ways to prove that our team is very talented and that in general Israeli players in Overwatch can work very well in top tier environment.
So what is the Israeli Overwatch scene like as a whole and what would a good performance this weekend do for it?
a: To reply to that question I will not only reply about Overwatch in particular, [but about Israeli eSports in general]. In Israel eSports is not that common and isn't really supported by anyone, besides really small tournaments now and then with very little prize money. ZenGaming is actually the first professional organization in Israel and they are trying to change how eSports is viewed in Israel. Although on a more positive note, Israel has very talented players. A good performance would bring a lot more "eyes" to the Israeli scene and players in particular. And possibly Israeli players could potentially take the game more seriously if they see other people from their region have success.
What are your teams goals for the World Cup, what would be considered a good performance to other Israeli players?
a: For the time being, our goal is to reach BlizzCon and be in the final 8 teams. It would be considered a good performance to other Israeli players. Although we aim very high and try to remain in the proper mindset, we are building ourselves with baby steps, and one of those steps is to make it first on our group.
Which team in your group do you see as your biggest challenge in winning your group and which in your qualifier as the biggest challenge to making it to BlizzCon?
a: Not too long ago I would probably answer UK and USA/Taiwan as the biggest challenge making it to BlizzCon, but now I feel like our biggest challenge is ourselves. We believe that although we are the underdogs we have a good chance against those teams. One of the challenges is maintaining the levels we perform in practice.
Alright, one last question that veers a bit off topic from the rest of our questions! I imagine the ping from Israel to European servers isn't all that great, what difference do you think it will make to play on LAN rather than online?
a: It's really hard to tell since we haven't ever played on low ping. We usually play with 70-80 ping, I bet it will make a lot of difference especially for people who are very skilled mechanically. and I am very glad that Blizzard is preparing a setup in order for us to practice and get used to the environment.
The Team Israel roster is:
- Josh "Eqo" Corona (DPS)
- Elad "KAFEEEEE" Vaaknin (Flex)
- Shon "ShonP" Trikisha (Flex)
- Michael "DeadlyMich" Goltzfarb (Tank)
- Danny "awkward" Novak (Support)
- Andrey "FrAgOn" Katz (Support)