Bad News Eagles made history for Kosova and Albania by qualifying for the Major. We sat down with coach Stikle- for an exclusive interview.
Kosova and Albania are historically underrepresented regions in the CS:GO scene. In past years, nobody would’ve expected players from the region to ever become a force in the space, let alone make it to the major. So when Bad News Eagles cemented their spot in the game forever, history was made for the region. We sat down with Bad News Eagles coach Stikle- to discuss their journey so far, their achievement, and the future.
Bad News Eagles make it to RMR
Arnav “xL” Shukla: The current 5-man roster came together in August of 2021 when BLINK signed rigoN. What was the reasoning behind that move?
Klesti “Stikle-” Kola: At that time, we had hit a wall and couldn’t improve anymore with that roster. The motivation of the team was starting to drop. So, we started looking for ways how to overcome this and we started looking for options.
That’s where rigoN comes into the equation. The idea was to upgrade the firepower of the team and in doing so change the whole system and structure of the team to become more versatile and dominant.
xL: In January of 2022, rigoN and SENER1 parted ways with BLINK citing contract renewal issues. Could you shed some light on what was going on in the team at the time?
Stikle-: There were internal issues between us and the organization that I don’t want to go into. The communication between us and the organization broke down and they decided not to release the team.
“We had one goal in mind only ‘Qualify for the major'”
xL: The most important event for Bad News Eagles initially was the PGL RMR Open Qualifiers. In Qualifier 1, you lost to SKADE in the round of 128. But in the second qualifier, you made it to the semis and won the tiebreaker to qualify for the RMR. What was the feeling in the team after that result?
Stikle-: When we left our old organization, we had one goal in mind only ‘Qualify for the major’. Even though it took some time for us to integrate him, we felt that we were finally ready with rigoN. There is a lot of stuff left to do but we still felt that we could do it. We wanted to prove everyone wrong and achieve what no one from our scene had done before.
xL: Top Teams like Fnatic and BIG were struggling massively in the qualifiers. Did you expect Bad News Eagles to qualify?
Stikle-: We were pretty confident going against any team in the qualifier. We knew if we keep calm and focused on one game at a time, we could do it.
“We were pretty confident going against any team in the qualifier. I knew if we keep calm and focused on one game at a time, we could do it.”
xL: Soon after the RMR qualifier, you guys also qualified for the BLAST Spring Showdown. Locking in back-to-back big events for the team.
Stikle-: We had a hard time acquiring Invites for tournaments at the time. And when we did there would always be clashes in the schedule. So I tried my hardest to get this qualifier for my team and get good competition against good teams.
xL: Before the RMR, was there much interest from organizations in acquiring the roster?
Stikle-: As soon as we left the old organization there have been organizations interested in the team. But we had decided to stay orgless for about 5-6 months. So that we could find our groove and prove ourselves as the real deal for any organization.
“We are united and stay together as a group no matter what. We are going to the end of this together.”
xL: Sometimes Orgless players are forced to take individual offers, has that been an issue?
Stikle-: That has never been the issue for us. We are united and stay together as a group no matter what. We are going to the end of this together.
xL: Shortly after you qualified, Gjirafa50 was announced as a sponsor to help with boot camps and expenses. How did that deal come about?
Stikle-: When we created Bad News Eagles I took charge of everything in the team. After we qualified for the RMR, I started looking for sponsors.
Gjirafa50 was one of the first companies that I contacted. We set up a meeting and found a cooperation that benefited both parties.
xL: IEM Dallas Qualifiers did not go well as Bad News Eagles lost in the early rounds. What led to this relative underperformance?
Stikle-: At that time, we had been boot camping for a month and we took the qualifiers just as practice. We chose to not play officials in this period as we didn’t want to show any of the stuff we had worked on. So we did not have any expectations from this event.
Bad News Eagles’ miracle at the RMR
xL: How did it feel when you were at LAN for the RMR? Did the pressure start feeling more real?
Stikle-: Not really, we didn’t care much because we knew that there was a lot of work ahead of us. We came with the goal of getting to the major. The only thing I felt when we went there was that “This is where we belong”.
xL: The initial best-of-ones were a bumpy ride for Bad News Eagles. An upset win over Entropiq, loss to NIP and G2. Can you give some thoughts on those games?
Stikle-: This was our first experience at an international LAN. We were confident that no matter who we face, we are gonna do our best. We just held our heads high no matter what happend.
There were a few mistakes that we made in the first 2 days. They were mostly psychological, so after the G2 game, I held a team talk. We discussed everything that happened, why it happened, how it happened and how to fix it.
The team said to each other, “Let’s give our best, no matter what. We came here to have fun and do what we love”. And so, it happened.
xL: The most important game was your final match against the Sinners. A full 3 map series starting with a 16:10 loss on Mirage. Backs against the wall, what did you discuss during the break between maps?
Stikle-: There were a lot of emotions and stress in map 1 which is understandable for our first time in this position. We went out after the first map and just took a breather. The team said to each other, “Let’s give our best, no matter what. We came here to have fun and do what we love”.
And so, it happened, everyone’s confidence was high and we entered the “zone” where everything goes by the book perfectly.
xL: Nuke was a dominant win, and everything came down to Inferno. After a battle on razor’s edge, you guys emerged victoriously. We could see the players going wild, and it looked like you took quite the hit, how was it?
Stikle-: Yeah, we were super happy when we won, it’s been a lifetime goal. We finally achieved it, not only for us but for all of our fans. To be honest, I knew my players would go crazy when we win. That’s why I stayed aside for a bit.
After a while I thought I’d join them too but seems like it was the worst moment :D. But I’m all good, nothing broken or shattered.
“A lifetime’s hardships, they just come flashing in front of your eyes and you feel proud.”
xL: At that moment did you realize how important that win was? Not just making the major as the first team from the region. But also the payoff of months of hard work by being a part of the game forever?
Stikle-: It felt surreal when we won. A lifetime’s hardships, they just come flashing in front of your eyes and you feel proud. You finally proved every hour, minute, second, all of it was worth it. What I love the most is the people who doubted you and told you “you are wasting your time” are left amazed.
xL: Could you describe how you feel about the achievement now that you are a few days away from it?
Stikle-: It feels great to be honest. I knew that if we stayed together and believed in each other, we dont need anyone else. We can make whatever we want if we work hard and have discipline. With or without organization, it was the same for me.
I do my best to provide everything for my players as both the coach and manager. So that the players can focus only on performing their best in-game.
Thoughts on the Future of Bad News Eagles
xL: With the earnings from stickers coming in, a large amount of money for an orgless squad. Are you guys still looking to sign with an organization? Or have you discussed a route like Eternal Fire and setting up Bad News Eagles as an organization in its own right?
Stikle-: To be honest everything is on the table , it’s all going to be decided after the major. Maybe you see us sign up with a major org. Or maybe we keep the Bad News Eagles Brand. Let’s leave that for the fans to find out which is which 🙂
xL: Has there been increased interest from organizations now that you have made it into the major?
Stikle-: Of course. As soon as we qualified there were numereous oraganizations that contacted me to sign my team.
xL: What are your goals for the team going forward, both for the major and otherwise?
Stikle-: Our goal at the moment is reaching the Legends Stage at the Major. So that we can get an invite for the next RMR. After the major we are going to compete in online tournaments and focus on improving further.
“The support is huge in Kosovo/Albania. Almost everyone has got word of what we achieved. We even had the pleasure of meeting the Prime Minister of Kosovo.”
xL: As the first Kosovar/Albanian team to make a Major, how has the support been from the region?
Stikle-: The support is huge in Kosovo/Albania. Almost everyone has got word of what we achieved. Politicians have come foward and given public support for our achievement. We even had the honor of meeting the Prime Minister of Kosovo. The support we are getting from everyone is overwhelming and it’s helping us a lot with motivation.
xL: What is your style of coaching – more tactical or more focused on keeping the team together mentally and emotionally?
Stikle-: I am more of a tactical Coach. I love the strategy part of the game so much. I plan almost all of the tactical aspect of the game. Then I have sinnopsyy help me out to decide what suits him best for his calling style. My job is to provide them with as much information as possible to improve our game and our individual form.
Working on the team mentality is as important as strategy, so thats a part where I focus a lot too. I always have team talks with the guys where we discuss freely how to improve. About the emotional side, that is a part where I think we need a Psychological Coach. I really belive that they would help us a lot and elevate us even further.
“Work hard and be disciplined, watch a lot of demos and be patient. Be kind and motivate your teammates, be humble and just enjoy the process of improving.”
xL: Could you give some words of inspiration for upcoming players of your region who are aspiring to reach the same heights you and your team have?
Stikle-: We have so much talent in our region, but it goes side by side with too much ego. They need to work a lot on emotional side. Work hard and be disciplined, watch a lot of demos and be patient. Be kind and motivate your teammates, be humble and just enjoy the process of improving.