Movistar Riders went undefeated in the group stage of ESL Pro League Season 15.
On the 12th of August 2021, peculiar news broke out. Movistar Riders had decided to bench Smooya, their superstar AWPer who had been carrying the team through every tier 2-3 game they played. The move was a result of their decision to return to a Spanish roster. At the time the CS: GO scene was shocked at the decision. In the eyes of many, this was Movistar deciding to be an irrelevant tier 3 team.
The org had retained the services of their longstanding duo, alex, and mopoz. The team saw the return of Deathzz to the roster who previously donned the jersey in 2019 alongside Dav1g, a young rifler. The big signing however was SunPayus. SunPayus the star AWPer, was the strongest prospect Spain had seen.
Activation – The road to IEM Fall
For a Spanish team, just being competitive in an RMR cycle is a dream come true. Movistar’s previous attempts were 11th and 12th place placings at 2020’s RMR events. So now with an on-paper weaker lineup, nobody expected them to make it to Stockholm
Their journey began like any other small team, down in the open qualifiers. Open qualifiers are always a rough ride, you can get upset by a random squad of 5 players you may have never heard of. For Movistar, this was “Dolej Miodu”. The polish team managed to upset Movistar 16-10 on Ancient in the round of 32. Nevertheless, the Spaniards managed to qualify in the very next qualifier, securing a spot in the closed qualifier where teams like FaZe, fnatic, ENCE, etc. awaited them.
In the qualifier, their qualifying match was against Eternal Fire. Eternal Fire on paper looked promising but their roster with ISSAA never truly found its potential. Movistar took the comfortable victory, securing their spot at the RMR.
Breakthrough – First Spanish team at the Major
The IEM Fall RMR was a total mess. Last-minute stand-ins, matches being played from hotel rooms, last moment game-changing update that saw the introduction of the overpowered m4a1s, grenade-drops, and a Dust2 with its identity completely changed. On top of all that, the best-of-one round-robin qualification system still stands as one of the worst tournament formats to have ever existed.
Movistar Riders were placed in group B. On paper, the group wasn’t the strongest but had a nice selection of tier 2 favorites competing against the big dogs of Heroic and Astralis. Coming into the event, nobody would have picked Movistar to advance from the group, favoring teams like SINNERS and Complexity instead.
Their games against Heroic and Astralis showed promise but weren’t anything special. The game against Complexity was finally a breakthrough. coL had names like Coldzera, BlameF, and JKS on the roster, but the Spaniards took them all the way on Nuke and secured their first win. From there Movistar took SINNERS’ specialty map of Vertigo and defeated Endpoint to barely squeak into the playoffs.
While the failed to make an impact in the playoffs, Movister Rider’s victory over G2 and CPH Flames was enough to qualify them for the major. Becoming the first Spanish team to qualify for the Major.
At Stockholm, they kicked off with a victory over Renegades, but unfortunate draws against the major’s top 11 teams VP, Entropiq, and Heroic cut the Spaniard’s trip short at a 2-3 record. Nevertheless, they had made history and brought Spain to the biggest stage in CS:GO.
Reset – Back to tier 2
Since then the Movistar Rider runs in events have been shaky at best. A strong conference performance netted them a spot at EPL S15, but poor showings at Katowice and the team’s failure in the RMR open qualifier, meant that the team would not be returning to the Major in Antwerp, a spot they would’ve had if we still followed the Minor system.
Looking at EPL Group C, it is very reminiscent of the group Movistar had back at IEM Fall. A online specialist trying to cement themselves on LAN (Heroic/Gambit), A fallen giant trying to regain their form (Astralis/Liquid), and a bunch of small teams trying to fight for the final spot. And once again they were at the bottom of the stack.
For almost everyone Movistar was an also-ran, but a few analysts like Thorin predicted them to pull off massive upsets in this group. Still nobody could have expected the miracle run that was to follow.
Ascension – Making playoffs at EPL
This time though Movistar came in guns blazing, taking out Godsent in their opening game. After that they had their toughest opponent since the creation of this roster, Gambit. While Gambit had a lot of external factors, they are still one of the best teams in the world. This game however they looked out of their depth. Sh1ro and Hobbit showed up but Ax1le was missing from the server. Meanwhile mopoz was running around with an M4-no armor and taking scalps.
Ancient especially was tough to watch for Gambit fans, as Movistar completely routed Gambit’s efforts. After that shocking result, it was just about can anyone take them down?
Liquid had their chance but lost in overtime on map 3. The nuke against BIG was a war of attrition going nearly 50 rounds, and they got stomped by Party Astronauts on Nuke, only to take the series 2-1.
Now in the playoffs they will be facing ENCE. Whatever be the result, one thing is for sure the Spaniards have put their country on the map in CS: GO and continue to win hearts with every game they play. Whenever we see them next, Spain will be cheering for them.