Credit: OG

How NiKo both elevated but also nearly ended the career of flameZ

We have spoken with the OG youngster about his impressive CS:GO journey, but also how one random pug against NiKo nearly shattered the entire thing.

The last couple of years has been a very eventful period for the young Israelian Shahar “flameZ” Shushan. The 18-year-old has gone from being a rather unknown FPL fighter to a hard-core entry-fragger rifler and a key component on one of CS: GO’s best teams.

We have had the opportunity to sit down with flameZ to talk about his impressive breakthrough and what it has meant to become a professional CS: GO player. In the interview, flameZ also opens up about how one particular encounter with the Bosnian superstar Nikola “NiKo” Kovač almost killed this dream of becoming a CS:GO pro.

How NiKo almost killed his dream

In April this year, flameZ joined OG after having made a name of himself at Endpoint. Under the guidance of Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen, the talented rifler quickly began to unfold his extremely gifted and promising abilities. However, it has not always been that easy for flameZ.

- I remember one time, before I was pro, I played a random pug against NiKo, where he absolutely crushed me. After that particular match, I remember that I took a one-week break from CS:GO because it made me not want to play the game. I had always dreamt of reaching the same level as NiKo, and I also thought I was playing well, but it was crazy to realize how far away I was from him.“

In fact, flameZ recalls a conversation with his coach at the time, where he actually explained to his coach that he was considering quitting CS:GO, because of NiKo “f*cking him up so bad” and the realization it brought with it.

-After some time, I went back to that exact game against NiKo and decided to download his demo to see how he plays - Something, which slowly meant that I got my motivation back. After that I was playing a lot of CS, even though, I back then had a really bad PC and monitor, and I was playing with a very low FPS.

The next big thing in CS:GO

One thing is to learn a thing or two from the Counter-Strike pros by watching their demos – But to be recognized and acknowledged by the superstars of the game, is in a completely different ballpark. Nonetheless, that was the reality for flameZ, when HLTV released their annual ‘Top 20 Players of the Year’ in 2020.

The star quartet of Robin “ropz” Kool, Florian “syrsoN” Rische, Nemanja “huNter” Kovač, and Nikola “NiKo” Kovač all named flameZ as one of CS:GO’s biggest talents in the “Bold prediction” feature.

“I think he got into FPL in the summer break. I hadn't played FPL for like two months or something, then when I was back, I was playing against him and I was like, 'Who the f*ck is this guy? I've never heard of him and he just comes and he starts popping heads’” – NiKo stated about flameZ.

- Being mentioned by these players was really motivating for me. However, in the start, I felt that it also came with a lot of pressure, because I felt that I really had to prove myself now. When NiKo did it, it caused a different feeling for me, with it being much more of a confidence boost. The fact that the guy who crushed me back then, now acknowledge me and recognize my worth, gave me a lot of confidence, flameZ said and added:

- That all happened in late 2020, and when we got back after the Christmas break, I could tell that I, and also Endpoint, had gained a lot of new fans, and people were actually watching our games just because of this. In the start, it was a bit tough, but I just said to myself that I just have to play as I did before.

The fact that the guy who crushed me back then, now acknowledge me and recognize my worth, gave me a lot of confidence - flameZ on NiKo.

After being revived with new motivation and put into the spotlight, flameZ’s career evolved in rapid fashion with the young Israelian quickly developing into a feared entry-fragger. The power rifler grew through the ranks after stellar showings at ESEA MDL Season 35 Europe and Fantasyexpo Spring for Endpoint, where he averaged 1.25 and 1.19 Ratings respectively.

flameZ stats | 2021

Rating: 1.13

ADR: 79.1

Impact Rating: 1.18

Headshot percentage: 50.7%

"Never meet your heroes"

The newly-concluded IEM Fall Europe was flameZ' first LAN tournament with OG. It was also his first time meeting a certain Danish superstar team face to face.

- At IEM Fall, I remember at one time I walked into an elevator where the entire Astralis squad were inside, and my first reaction was just “WTF is happening”. You know, they have done everything a CS:GO player wants to achieve. At that exact moment, I thought about how crazy it was that I’m here with them – not as a fan or something, but to compete against them.

In the beginning, I looked at players like ropz and NiKo as kind of a fanboy, but then after some time you develop a connection, I think. Now, I feel like I’m just competing against them and not idolizing them as much. I still look up to them in a way (…) but I still want to beat them every time I play against them, flameZ explained.

Next challenge: BLAST Premier Fall Showdown

flameZ and the rest of OG next match will be at BLAST Premier Fall Showdown, where they will take on the Brazilians from paiN in the Round of 16. The matchup is set to begin at 15:30 (CEST) this Wednesday.

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