Vince Nairn: Congratulations on advancing. What was the preparation like coming up to the Major?
Alexander Lemeshev: The preparation for this Major was quite hard. We got our visas only two days before the actual flight. We were risking to miss the Major. I’m happy and at the same point speechless. It would be a hard loss if we missed the Major, and I know what it means for the boys. As soon as we got our visas sorted, I knew that our preparation was f***ed up because we only had two days of boot camp. Our guys were playing 15 hours a day. They hadn’t played CS since last year. I knew they would step in during the tournament itself.
VN: How did you try to navigate that uncertainty as a team regarding the visas?
AL: We knew we faced some problems with the visas, one and a half weeks before the New Year. For one week straight I wasn’t telling anything to the boys, we were just trying to fix those issues with the embassy and the team and the organization to actually get those visas. As soon as we got our appointment with the embassy scheduled in Kiev, we’d have to fly to get those visas. I told it to the guys straight. The other thing is because of that, there were no flights available from the guys’ hometowns to Moscow on the first of January, so they had to miss the opportunity to celebrate the New Year with their families. Had to fly to Moscow Dec. 30 and (to Kiev) the morning of Jan. 1.
VN: What did you say to the team? How did you try to prepare?
AL: I don’t know. We just had to believe because there’s nothing you can do about it. Here’s another funny story. We had four guys (who) had an appointment in Kiev and they all got (their visa applications) accepted. The process is you have an interview first and one or two days later you get (your) passport back. Second day, only three out of four passports came back. They didn’t give four passports back. All the guys had to fly back to Moscow, and I waited back (to wait for) the fourth passport. That’s nuts.
VN: That sounds crazy. That said, how did you guys put it all together this week and perform the way you did?
AL: I knew that for all the guys, the Major means a lot. As soon as they knew they got the visas, they were all hyped. Even if they weren't in the best shape, I knew they would step up given the tournament. Maybe that’s what we did. We had a tough first game against Renegades. All the games were close, and that’s what a Major is. There are no weak teams. All the teams are hungry.
VN: This is your second Major in a row. What does it mean to the organization to be able to make it back here and make it to this stage again?
AL: I believe it means a lot, not only for the org but the whole team: Our coach, players, me as a manager. This time, we are aiming for more. We’ve all been to the Major. We lost 0-3 straight last time, and this time we want to show we came here not for the experience. We’re hungry.
VN: How are you gonna handle the week in between games?
AL: I believe today is the day we all deserve some rest for the rest of the day. As for the other days, we start playing on Friday, I think we’ll just practice some. We’ll do some work on the opponents, do some replays, get a plan for the first game. That’s basically it.
VN: You had two days last time and you have almost four this time...
AL: *laughs* Double the preparation time.
Cover photo courtesy of Turner Sports/ELEAGUE