The rise and fall of smooya is a cautionary tale, but a man with such a unique skillset could yet find a way back and rewrite his part of the story.
The smooooooooo-ya, smooooooo-ya chants echoed around arena in Cologne for days on end. As Germany’s finest CS:GO team stormed through to the final of their home event, the fans grew to love the British star of the team more with every passing match. Berlin International Gaming may have been the brainchild of gob b when it came to the tactics and the cheese, but the jewel in the German crown was a boy from Huddersfield with an unnatural level of talent: Owen Butterfield, the man they call smooya.
Last week, due mainly to complications that arose with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced that smooya would be benched by Chaos, a CS:GO team currently #36 in the world playing in FLASHPOINT, before they eventually decided to release him for good. His IGL at that org was Josh ‘Steel’ Nissan, a former member of the banned iBUYPOWER team who is no longer able to play at Valve events, and therefore will never compete in a Major again.
Now, it’s not as though BIG have gone from strength to strength in smooya’s absence, but this is certainly a fall from grace for the most talented player the UK has produced in years – if ‘grace’ is a word that can ever be applied in his case. So how does the best player to come from his shores, and a playmaking sniper who speaks English and can change a game, end up orgless and teamless at a time like this?
As is often the case in esports, a lot of where the blame lies will depend on who you feel sympathetic to, and if there is one thing smooya really struggles with, it seems to be getting people to like him. Comparisons to his IGL at BIG, for example, do not go in his favour, with gob b a loved and respected member of the CS fraternity with many years of service already under his belt.
By comparison, smooya is a brash, trash-talking Northerner with a history of questionable behaviour on social media. Though he has put a stop to all that, there was a time when young Owen had a tendency to over-share on topics that didn’t concern him – possibly for the clout, we’ll never know. Safe to say that this was the genesis of the ‘rat king’ meme, created by Richard Lewis, and popularised on Reddit and beyond since.
All of this should paint a picture of just how smooya burst onto our screens. When initial reports surfaced that he was clashing with gob b there was a circling of the wagons from some of the old guard of CS, as is often the case, built on the assumption that the youngster must be wrong if he was arguing with the legend. What actually happened is more complicated though, and if reports are to be believed, it looks more like the fault was shared, if not mainly on the side of BIG.
You see, BIG tried to mold Smooya into the player they thought he should be, which is an incredibly hard thing to do, and may well have reduced his efficacy in game. Moving him from primary AWP to hybrid is certainly a waste of his potential. Since they cut their English star, the team has failed to replicate the success that made them the darlings of Cologne (and Smooya the most talked about man from Huddersfield, at least in esports), suggesting that gob b may not have all the answers after all.
Today, gob b is part of BIG management, while smooya is staring Chaos in the rear-view mirror, and that seems odd. English-speaking playmaking AWP players are a rare commodity, and the Northerner ought to be in greater demand, not just for the role he fulfills but also the way he played at FLASHPOINT, where he went toe-to-toe with FalleN and regularly bested the Brazilian. Sadly, smooya is a victim of his own choices as much as of the reputation others have built for him.
A recent interview with HLTV suggests that he has understood some of his faults – but then again, he may just have understood what he needs to say, and doing it will be the real challenge. With teams not looking to spend in the current climate, it’s going to be a quiet time for Britain’s finest virtual sniper. Hopefully he uses it for some self-reflection, to return all the stronger when the pandemic is past us. If he can show the world that adolescent Owen is gone, a fully evolved smooya could very well find his way back from the wilderness.