Since the inception of the roster three months ago, Yalla has been making great strides in the CS:GO circuit as a representative of the Middle Eastern scene, with the team set to attend the eXTREMESLAND Asia Finals after coming through their region’s LAN finals, which took place in Dubai.
Despite their qualification, Yalla have still faced hurdles, this time in the form of visa issues, which have forced the team to enlist the services of Estonian duo Kristjan “fejtZ” Allsaar and Raul-Madis “nyte” Edovald for the event in Shanghai.
Visa issues will see Yalla attend the event in Shanghai with just three of their regular players
In our interview with 3ARK00Z, the 21-year-old shed some light on the struggles of a Middle Eastern team, the addition of their new coach, Anton “ToH1o” Georgiev, formerly of Windigo, receiving invites to the United Masters League Season 2 and FPL-C, and having to deal with visa issues, among other topics.
As a Middle Eastern squad that has less exposure than teams in more popular regions like North America, Europe and CIS, what are the biggest struggles you face as a team and what drives you to keep going in light of this?
One of the main issues we face as Arabs is the lack of exposure as players due to the lack of tournaments invites and qualifiers for the region. As Arabs, we have always been neglected by the major tournaments and we never had representatives in the international scene until now; hence the lack of experience in the community. But with the Yalla project, we are trying our best to be that representative. We understand that we will lose lots of games, but what makes us keep on going is the passion to get better and the desire to close this gap between Arab CS and international CS.
The team received an invitation to compete in the United Masters League Season 2, where you are the only Middle Eastern team competing. How important is it for the team, and the region, to represent the Middle East in an event dominated by top EU & CIS teams?
First of all, we appreciate this big opportunity to join the UML as we will be learning a lot and getting the experience we need to get better as a Middle Eastern team.
As an Arab team, we never got such opportunities to compete against the best teams in Europe and CIS, and we will try our best to surprise these teams with our style and we will always give it our best as we represent a huge community.
There has been some improvement in opportunities for Middle Eastern teams in recent times, like the MENA qualifier for the StarLadder Major. How vital is it for the growth of the scene that TOs include specific qualifying processes for this region?
It’s crucial for the region to have these qualifiers for international tournaments, the Arab TOs have moved to other trendy games. As a player, I always enjoyed traveling and competing against the best players in the world. It has helped me grow as a player in skill and experience.
When I traveled to WESG, WCA and PLG I got a huge motivation boost when I saw that on LAN with the same ping I could compete against the top players I usually watch on stream.
You recently qualified for eXTREMESLAND Asia Finals after progressing through a couple of regional qualifiers. What does it mean for the team to have qualified for this event?
As a new team, we were so happy to be able to dominate this qualifier and be the Arab representatives as we have been together for less than three months.
This qualification gave us a lot more motivation to keep practising, we even stopped taking days off to come and practice. I even started streaming after practice on a daily basis around three FPL-C games per day. All we lack at this stage is more time to get the chemistry and experience.
Despite qualifying for eXTREMESLAND Asia with remind and Kheops, the team will be unable to field the duo because of visa issues. Can you expand on this and explain why you are prevented from fielding your official roster?
After qualifying for the event Shanghai, we all started our visa process, but due to being Arabs we had lots of issues with the local authorities to acquire tourist visas as the requirements are too harsh.
So, we had to get a business visa, which required a specific Chinese government invitation letter, but eXTREMESLAND couldn’t get it done in time. Our manager, deviI, had to find other ways for us to get our visas, but Remind and Kheops could not get them. Thanks to Yalla esports for all the support to help the rest of us to get our visas done in time. I hope one day we as Arabs won’t have to go through all this trouble to get our visas, especially us, esports players.
What was the decision process for selecting fetjZ and nyte as stand-ins for eXTREMESLAND Asia?
As soon as we knew we needed two stand-ins, Devil asked us if we would like to play with Fejtz and Truth, although Truth couldn’t make it due to having a Norwegian LAN event he had to play with his team. However, Fejtz as a free agent had no issues joining us: we had met at PLG Grand Slam and we had hung out a bit. And since Fejtz has played in China before, that would help us understand the team styles we will be facing.
When it comes to Nyte, Fejtz suggested him as his best option for a duo to play together on the map as Senpai and Dead and I play the same side. So it all made sense in the end, two skilled players who play together is always a good option.
The team recently added ToH1o as coach. What impact has he had on the team and how important has his addition been for your development?
ToH1o’s addition has been really important for me and the project, he is super serious and focused on one target, which is helping us improve. ToH1o’s experience has helped us a lot to understand the game better and I think with time we will learn so much from him.
Now with Toh1o, we get to practice against the best teams out there and learn from our mistakes and improve quickly. And I guess this is why the management decided to go for a European coach, so thanks to Yalla again for supporting us on that level!
The entire team has been invited to FPL-C. What does it mean to the players to be able to practice in this environment?
I personally always wanted to join FPL-C and get to FPL as I had reached a point where normal pugs were getting boring. However, now with FPL-C this means we practice with players of our skill group and with some who are better, so we actually improve as players through this. Our reflexes, movement, crosshair placement, everything needs to be on point. So, this alone means a lot to the players and we will make sure we make the best out of it.
With UML S2 and eXTREMESLAND Asia on the horizon, what goals have the team set in the short-term and for the future?
Currently, as every new team, we are climbing and grinding different leagues. Our target is to reach a league like ESEA MDL and compete vs. the best teams out there and have our name on HLTV every night so our Arab fans get a consistent stream of competitions. Personally, I hope to get better as a player with the help of ToH1o, Devil and the Yalla esports family.