Esports, like traditional sports, is about names, and names sell tickets. In CS:GO, it’s s1mple you want to watch – or who knows, maybe ZywOo now –, and everyone knows who Faker is in League of Legends and why you want to see him play. The same is true of console titles, where Scump does things that make kids want to be Call of Duty pros and Mang0 regularly rescues Melee from the hands of people who want to win at all costs.
Generally speaking, these are the competitors that orgs want to sign.
It’s not just the fact those players are all habitual winners with insane talent ceilings, but also the way they win, and the manner in which they capture the imagination of the average fan. Dota 2 has its fair share of such players too, and many of them are nestled at the heart of huge organisations as you would expect. However, for one such superstar, the post-TI9 months have been confusing, at least when you look in from the outside.
Syed Sumail Hassan, as he is known to his mom, moved to the USA when he was just a boy, no more than thirteen years old and with just four years of Dota under his belt. Coming from Pakistan to the States can’t have been easy for a kid of his age, but he took to American gaming like a duck to water, joining the North American Elite League and dominating from very early on. By 2015 he was carrying Evil Geniuses to a TI title, recognised as one of the true stars of Dota, and pretty rich for his age too.
With all of that in mind, it seems strange to say today that SumaiL is a free agent in a world where most of the top teams seem to have little need of his talents. In the wake of EG’s latest TI failure, he left the organisation, half a decade after donning the blue and black of esports old money, and initially moved to team up with the ‘Quincy Crew’, a stack that was led by Jack ‘KBBQ’ Chen and featured SumaiL’s older brother Yawar.
However, that project fell apart quickly, with Chen tweeting that SumaiL was out of the ‘Crew’ just two weeks after the team had been announced. According to his message, the team ‘tried to resolve our fit issues, but ultimately weren't able to do so to the point where everyone felt most comfortable and empowered to keep moving forward’, as well as going on to state that SumaiL was not ‘the problem’.
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Reading between the lines, that should have been obvious to anyone, that the best, and potentially only truly world class player on the team wasn’t ‘the problem’, and from day one it looked an odd fit for a player used to being on one of the world’s biggest orgs, with some of the world’s best players. Now, he wanders, alone in the tier one wilderness, despite being one of the best-performing and most popular players in the world to this day, and it’s not immediately obvious where he can go.
Perhaps this is a product of the career he has had so far, which has forced SumaiL into the dual role of wanderer, as his Twitter bio states, and also faithful servant to the EG brand he carried on his back for so long. He was competing with men when he was still a boy, earning millions when most of his peers were looking for their first job, but today there is no obvious spot for a man who logically has the ability to improve nearly any team in Dota.
The idea that a player like s1mple, ZywOo, Twistzz or some other such talent would go unsigned in CSGO is crazy, and the same is true of many other games, but Dota is a scene like no other with relationships that span many years. From a neutral point of view, it is to be hoped that SumaiL does find a home to fit his form and status as a player sooner rather than later, as he’s not just an astonishingly talented man, but is also the kind of personality that esports as a whole, let alone Dota was built on, and needs to this day: a wanderer who found his true calling.