YEKINDAR: "If it's possible I'm gonna maybe stick with the team"
When it was announced that Mareks "YEKINDAR" Gaļinskis would be standing-in for Liquid at IEM Cologne, many were hopeful that this could bring life to a team that struggled to make deep runs in 2022 so far. While Liquid had an unfortunate start to their run, falling to Spirit in their opening game, the team massively recovered in the lower bracket, trouncing 00 Nation, Cloud9, and FURIA en route to the Lanxess Arena, where the team is set to face Movistar Riders in the quarterfinals.
Shortly after Liquid's win over FURIA in the lower bracket finals, YEKINDAR spoke with Dust2.us' Liam "Slevo" Slevin on a number of topics, including the arduous games the team has endured in the lower bracket, the personality difference between CIS and NA, and whether an offer from Liquid was something he was considering after being benched from Virtus.pro.
Tell me how you feel after that victory, after a long day in the office beating Cloud9 and then FURIA?
I mean, I feel exhausted. I felt it in Mirage, if it would've gone for a third map against FURIA it would be super hard, especially on Vertigo, I feel is their best map. We were stronger mentally and we won, I'm happy that we qualified and I think it's deserved. Nobody knows how much hours you put in, only you. We think it's deserved, and this was our mini-goal for this tournament at least.
You guys have gone through a lot of overtimes this week. Tell me about the mentality and morale of the team throughout those overtimes, when the games were getting long and frustrating.
The overtime against Spirit showed me everything, what I needed, and I changed it, I tried to at least change it. The longer the game, the more stressful it becomes. There were some problems against Spirit on Ancient in terms of mental game, and Spirit were just stronger mentally. I came from a team that has comeback so many games, and we always played super long games, and I just explained, "Don't fucking surrender until the end and everything is possible", and I think it clicked, and everyone started to believe. When one person believes, truly believes, everybody starts believing and every win, they start believing more and more and more. That's what happened that we won the last two overtimes.
You said there that you came from a team that played a lot of overtimes, Outsiders, formerly Virtus.pro. Tell me a bit about the differences in terms of the personalities, having an NA team now compared to a CIS team.
I don't necessarily think there's cultural differences, but we were more professional in VP. We were robots, we needed to work, we worked, and we were working a lot. I think in this team it was a bit more free atmosphere, like "Ah I'm going to chill now". I came, I said "We're gonna play, we're gonna improve, we're gonna practice, we don't want to be losers, and we want to win", and everybody is doing their input, and now it's changing bit by bit. I hope it's going to help them in the future, the things that I'm bringing to the team.
After your benching from Virtus.pro, was North America a destination that you considered right off the bat, or was it something that just kind of came up when Liquid made the offer?
It's mostly [that] I just stand-in for this tournament, I just knew that they were changing shox, so they obviously needed the stand-in, and it happened that I had got an agreement with VP that I could stand-in. It wasn't maybe at the start on the radar for me, now, after qualifying for playoffs, I don't know what's gonna happen, maybe if it's possible I'm gonna maybe stick with the team.
In terms of the North American fanbase, have you felt the love from the North American fans since you were announced as a stand-in for Liquid?
I don't really do social media during games and tournaments, so I haven't really checked, but I hope so. I mean, I'm not a bad guy. I try to win, I try my best, and I hope maybe somebody likes me from NA now more.
Now that you're going to be in the Lanxess Arena, realistically, how far do you think you guys can go now with your matchup against Movistar Riders?
I think Movistar surprised a lot of people here, and they're super good. We can be expecting a three-mapper, or a two-mapper, they can win, we can win. Considerably good matchup for us and for them, because we're both underdogs of the tournament. I have no idea, I just know they play good, and I hope it's just going to be a good game.
One final question about your teammates here at Liquid. Who has impressed you the most in terms of work ethic?
I think oSee is really... I don't think he was super motivated before because of NA and how they practice, but as soon as I came to the team he's asking me a lot of questions, always willing to improve, stays late with me, and always listens to me when I say something to him and he tries to understand. Even if he doesn't understand, he always asks. That's a really good quality about him. Obviously EliGE as well, EliGE is the most experienced player in the team, and I think I give him space to improve because of the different viewpoint that I offer. He's the same, super motivated, plays a lot, asks a lot, and if he doesn't understand something he can always come to me and ask something. These two players impress me the most. Obviously NAF and nitr0 also, all of them, when I joined in the bootcamp, they all were super motivated. Me and nitr0, we stayed long nights, long nights to be ready for this tournament.
While Liquid may be done with their difficult lower bracket run, their campaign in IEM Cologne is still not finished. Liquid will be spending the next few days preparing for their quarterfinal matchup against Movistar Riders, with their game slated for Friday at 01:00PM.