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Is ZywOo CS:GO’s Most Underrated Player?

Nikhil Kalro

Something unique happened in early September. French president Emmanuel Macron officially unveiled news of Paris hosting the 2023 BLAST Major. Now, venues for the upcoming season being announced well in advance is par for the course.

vitality pro league s16

Image Credit: IEM | Adela Sznajder

It helps stakeholders, sponsors, teams and management to work towards short-term plans. What isn’t usual, definitely, is for a head of state to make such an announcement amid much fanfare. Hosting an event of this magnitude will be the biggest endeavour by far in the company’s history.

Perhaps it was because of the surging popularity that makes esports as viable a career option like traditional sport in the country. It’s a realization that not just France but the rest of Europe and the world is slowly waking up to.

All said, this will be the first CS:GO Major to take place in Paris, which had earlier hosted the League of Legends World Championship and a Dota 2 Major. But since BLAST has taken over the organisation of CS:GO, this announcement marks another major milestone towards acknowledging the importance of Western Europe to the esports landscape.

The Majors are widely believed to be the pinnacle for CS:GO events, featuring a prize pool of over $1 million. There’s little doubt how big CS:GO has become in France. The popularity that first took shape in some form a decade ago is now into full-blown fanaticism territory, given there are many top teams in the region – the likes of LDLC, EnVyUs and Titan.

There has been a subsequent dip, like you’d expect in any sport, but that is perhaps cyclical. The game remains relevant nonetheless, courtesy of Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut of Team Vitality. That Macron has been actively seen talking about esports and its influence in France is as much due to players like ZywOo and teams like Vitality.

It hasn’t ever happened that a player, especially a rookie, has been talked of more than a team, especially in France. In his first full year as a pro, ZywOo had a profound impact with every team he played for. His success has been so heady that it’s hard to imagine he was rejected by G2 once upon a time. Since 2018, he’s been a vital cog for Vitality, and the association only continues to grow from strength to strength.

From being named best player in the world for two years running (2019 and 2020), Vitality are now banking on ZywOo to help them overcome a lull and put them back in the title race. He’s easily one of the faces in the French esport scene, something Macron touched upon in his address seemingly to win over the esport fans.

Macron wore a Vitality hoody themed on the French flag earlier this year ahead of the election, where he’d also spoken of his desire to have major esport titles host their flagship event in the country. This time around, the return of a major event coincides with a French professional doing great things.

An Exceptional Performance from ZywOo

ZywOo and his team didn’t drop a single series in their Group at ESL Pro League S16, claiming the top spot. Vitality now start their playoffs in the quarterfinals as their group toppers. They have also done some favors for Ninjas in Pyjamas along the way. A team that was on the brink of elimination has been given a lifeline.

ZywOo was exceptional in the group stage and pulled off some incredible numbers courtesy some superhuman feat – his 20.0 rating according to HLTV made him one of the most prolific players.

At 21, he also currently is a record holder for least deaths per round in the event at 0.56. In all,  ZywOo has claimed the most AWP kills (111) and most opening kills per round (0.16) as well.

These stats have been backed up superbly by his Vitality colleagues Lotan “Spinx” Giladi, Emil “Magisk” Reif, and Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen – further reinforcing their dominance in France, one of the reasons why the esports scene in the country is becoming hard to ignore for people from all classes and professionals, not least the lawmakers.

There’s a reason why Vitality have managed to captivate attention the way they do. It’s because they do the impossible quite often, without frills and most-definitely without drama. They’re the epitome of commitment and high performance in a day and age where several teams adopt chop-change methods for instant gratification.

Vitality hardly lost confidence in their roster through thick and thin, giving a fair chance to their team. In Group A, they were vindicated by their show of taut when the side rallied from a map down to beat Natus Vincere to proudly protect their all-win record.

Vitality had found themselves stuck in quicksand on Inferno after a 16-10 loss, but they stormed back to win on Mirage and then clinch victory on Overpass. ZywOo was the star of the show with 75 kills and a plus-27 kills-to-deaths ratio.

A Bright Future for Vitality

You’re unlikely to see players from Vitality make the Forbes list. Or so you thought. They’re unlikely to be handed out million-dollar sponsorship contracts or become influencers, or so you thought. And then ZywOo came along and shredded all these perceptions single-handedly through his game play.

The Forbes magazine shortlists industry figures under 30 who’ve had a massive impact in their respective fields or those who have made a name for themselves through their accomplishments.

From the sports world, ZywOo has now joined the likes of Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz (2020) and Luka “Perkz” Perkovic (2021) in the esports scene, a testimony to his performances and following. Organisation founders of Team Vitality have also made the list, among a host of other big teams.

Vitality’s bounce back from a poor 2021 where they didn’t even make it through to IEM Cologne has been a massive success story, one the realm of films and documentaries may not do justice to.

Spinx’s signing following a transfer from ENCE has given them a massive edge. Prior to his stint with Vitality, on LAN, he had a rating of 1.17, which is among the best in the world. The team couldn’t have asked for anyone better than him for that level of dominance in their quest to chart a turnaround. The trophy-less slumber could well come to an end if their Group A performances are anything to go by.

“It definitely wasn’t an easy decision when I found out Vitality were interested. It wasn’t like ‘I want to go, I want to go,’ but after some thinking I decided that I’d prefer to go,” Spinx told HLTV in an interview. “Yeah, it wasn’t an easy decision, all the ENCE guys are really good friends of mine, a lot of good memories, but this is it I guess, right? Now I have a new team, new people to meet, new friends, and a new organization. So far it’s been good and I hope it will keep going good.

“There were some factors, but one of them was that Vitality have a BLAST partnership, which is super important for CS:GO overall. They have players like ZywOo, and we all know ZywOo, right? Every international team would want him. Of course, they have a lot of really, really experienced players, and I thought it would be good for me. It’s definitely new, I don’t think moving into a new team is easy. You have different people, a different atmosphere, also different roles and a lot of stuff, but I think I’m doing pretty fine.

“I don’t think we have any expectations. We know that everyone has some different roles, we need to get used to it, they have a different player. It’s the first tournament, it could go really good because sometimes you have a honeymoon, but it can go kind of bad, as well. It’s fine, I think we’ll just do our best and learn from the mistakes.”