Cologne The ESL has been organizing one of the most important e-sport tournaments of the year in Cologne for five years. The atmosphere among fans is exuberant – even if there is no German team present.
The fans in the Lanxess Arena are raving. The second round of the semi-final between Astralis and Team Vitality at ESL One Cologne goes into extra time. The Danish team Astralis is the favourite in this tournament, which calls itself the “Cathedral of the Counter-Strike”. But Team Vitality makes it to the final.
“Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (CS:GO) is a tactical shooter on the PC in which two teams with five players each compete against each other. At tournaments the mode bomb defusing is played: One team must place a bomb at a specific location on the map, the other team must prevent it from doing so.
In terms of spectator numbers, the game is one of the largest e-sports disciplines in the world. According to the organizers, ESL One attracts 15,000 people to the sold-out arena. Millions follow the tournament online.
“It’s probably the biggest tournament you can play,” says Alexander “kakafu” Szymanczyk about ESL One Cologne. The Austrian trains the Berlin International Gaming (BIG) team, the only German team to participate in ESL One Cologne. “The density of good teams is very high. If you win here, you are one of the best.”
In 2018, BIG almost succeeded in creating this sensation. As an underdog, the team fought its way to the final, carried by the fans in their own country. But there they lost to the Russian-Ukrainian team Natus Vincere (NaVi). This year, however, they didn’t manage to do so, as the group stage was already over. That’s why BIG couldn’t play on the big stage in the Lanxess Arena: The group stage was played somewhere else before the weekend.
“We have had to make a lot of changes lately,” says Szymanczyk. There have been several player and role changes in the team and communication has not yet been 100% successful.
The fans in the hall are now cheering others on. “As a German, I’m clear for BIG,” says Pascal from Cologne. The young man in the jersey visits the ESL One Cologne for the second time and regrets that BIG did not make it into the playoffs this time. “Furthermore, I’m just for good matches.”
And that’s how many people seem to be doing in the hall: The audience cheers every good action and every point win, no matter for which team. Of course, there are also fans of individual teams who are feverish for their team. But Pascal and many other fans are mainly here to watch as many, as good matches as possible. That’s why they’re happy about the extra time: more excitement, more counter-strikes.
“I cheered on every team that I think deserves to make progress,” says Dennis from Wermelskirchen.
In the final, however, Pascal and Dennis will stick with Team Liquid. For the North American team it’s not just about winning the tournament in the cathedral city. The first-placed teams in the unofficial world rankings also have the chance to win the “Intel Grand Slam”. The prize, endowed with 1 million US dollars, will be distributed to the team that wins four out of ten selected tournaments. ESL One Cologne is the fifth tournament in this series – and Team Liquid already has three victories in its pocket.
Quelle: ESL / dpa / Foto: Marius Becker