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“I will never let my team down” – mantuu talks overcoming injuries, ESIC ruling, and more

OG's main AWPer Mateusz ‘⁠mantuu’ Wilczewski speaks exclusively to The Loadout about the CS:GO scene and a turbulent 12 months

As a Polish-born Londoner playing for the German organisation Alternate aTTaX, Mateusz ‘⁠mantuu’ Wilczewski turned a number of heads when it was announced he was joining OG’s impressive line-up back in December 2019. A large portion of the CS:GO community had never even heard the 23-year-old’s name, yet it didn’t take long for mantuu to establish himself as one of OG’s most consistent players.

In July 2020, mantuu revealed he was diagnosed with tenosynovitis in both hands, a condition that affects the tendons of the thumb side of his wrists, forcing him to take painkillers before every game. Despite this setback, mantuu managed to regain his impressive form, showing the CS:GO scene exactly why OG signed him up in the first place.

Since Mantuu is helping promote the UK qualifiers for Red Bull Flick, a global 2v2 tournament, we had the opportunity to talk exclusively with the rising star. Sign ups for the UK qualifiers are now open, and the winners will be granted a workshop with mantuu himself.

During his conversation with The Loadout, he touches upon his injury, the impact of coronavirus on competitive CS:GO, and the recent Esports Integrity Commission ruling on the infamous coach spectator bug that resulted in the ban of 37 coaches. Here’s what he had to say.

The Loadout: When you first signed for OG, did you see what people were saying about you?

Mateusz ‘mantuu’ Wilczewski: Yeah, it was hilarious. It was the classic ‘who?’. The thing is with me, I’ve been constantly abused on HLTV just because of my name and where I’m from. I’m a Polish guy that lived in the UK and played in the German scene. Since day one, I was just getting memed, so I was kinda comfortable with it. The comments were funny though. People that knew me from the UK and German scene were really supportive –  they already knew that I was a strong player.

In December last year when you signed for OG, you said you and the team were targeting a top five finish this year. You’re currently sitting at number 12 in the world rankings  – what do you make of your year so far?

With the whole coronavirus situation that has absolutely flipped the whole world around, I think it made all the teams in CS:GO right now really unstable. Every other week someone is number one. For the online season, we can hit the top ten and just go slowly lower down. I think once LAN returns we can hit top five, because I think we play better on LAN.

I’m still pleased with the rankings we have right now though.

Earlier in the season you talked about the hand injury that kept you from playing for some time. How was that sustained and how has the recovery process been?

It was a really rough phase for me. I’ve never experienced any sort of injury in any other sport. I got this injury and it lasted three or four months, and obviously I still have it. It is much better, but that was a rough period of my life. I was going through doctors and was playing in tournaments at the same time, and with the online schedule right now, there was no break in between. I was constantly playing and was asking doctors ‘what is happening?’, and different doctors were telling me different things. 

It’s the kind of injury where you have to find your own thing. I went from England to Poland because I have a family doctor here who has been helping me privately with my injury. Since the physiotherapy I had, and the treatment, the pain has completely gone. I can’t bend my finger. Like, there’s no pain but I can’t bend my finger fully – it’s not flexible, but the physiotherapy is helping me to fully recover. I’m in no pain right now, so I’m just trying to recover the tendon in my thumb. 

Is this something that can suffer from flare ups again if you don’t go through the recovery process properly? 

Yeah. It’s [the physiotherapy] is something I may have to do for the rest of my life, like constantly massaging it, putting cold treatment on my hand. There’s nothing really I can do – it happened. I’m happy because this week I have no pain at all, it’s really enjoyable to play again. 

I still have to watch out though, I can’t go over the top playing.

So you were playing through the injury?

It was awkward because I just joined OG, straight into the tier one scene. I went from ALTERNATE aTTaX and I got this injury like six, seven months in and I just thought to myself, ‘I can’t just take a break right now. I’m going to go through the pain. I’m going to do whatever because I’m not willing to waste this opportunity’. 

What sort of support did OG lend you to get you through that injury? 

OG was really beautiful. We went into a call together, we discussed what I have, and they’ve been super helpful with it. With different organisations, you have the boss and it’s really professional, but there isn’t like a family connection there. With OG it’s been really nice, they’ve been really supportive. They message me on Whatsapp constantly, asking about my hand, how it’s feeling, and helping me.

You’ve played a lot of different roles over the years but when you joined OG you said you were looking forward to being the primary AWPer. Are you still relishing the opportunity or do you miss the freedom some of the other roles offer? 

I’m enjoying the new role. It has been difficult because I’m playing as an AWPer in the tier one scene. There’s no preparation or training – I’m just going on the vibes of Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev. 

I get wrecked in practice and I’m just watching these demos like ‘what is happening?’ It’s been fun. In my team, I can play as a rifler as well and I can play entry, so they are giving me the freedom to do what I want. When we’re playing against certain teams where I know the AWP isn’t really viable against them, I’ll switch to the rifle, and I’ll play entry with the other entry fraggers on my team.

You’ve had the opportunity to play with a number of CS:GO veterans over the past few years. What’s been the most important lesson learnt from these experienced players?

Especially from players like Nathan ‘NBK’ Schmitt, Aleksi ‘Aleksib’ Virolainen, or even my coach, grinding and knowing how to use your time usefully. I remember the first time I was in bootcamp with OG, I was watching a demo, and NBK was like, ‘this is not how you watch a demo’. 

How was watching a demo different with OG?

I’d never thought about it, I was just watching every round and he [NBK] was like, ‘you’re watching this demo in 30/40 minutes, I’m going to watch this demo in five minutes.’ I was like, ‘wow dude.’

Wait, how?

Just watching what you are trying to get out from the demo. You stop watching useless stuff – pistol rounds and eco rounds, and get straight to the point.

We went into an offline server to practice as I’d never had to peak AWP angles before. He [NBK] was just strafing these angles for me while I was scoped in. It was little things like this that helped me, and yeah, it was amazing.

Everyone in the CS:GO community has taken note of your skills since your arrival on the tier one scene. Have you noticed an improvement personally?

Yeah, I improved a lot. With my injury, it’s been really bad for me individually. Not bad, but okay. I just have to get through it, realise the situation, be realistic and get through it. Hopefully I can come back and start grinding again.

Some teams, like Cloud9, have taken the time off from the Rio Major to reset and rebuild. Now that the pressure of a major has been removed, is there anything specific you and the rest of the team are looking to focus on in its place? 

I think for us it’s just being consistent, individually, and as a team. We have days where we are beating the top teams, and days where we lose really badly. Consistency is our thing, grinding, and getting back to form.

Is there anything positive to take from all the online events that you hope could be brought to LAN events in the future?

With my previous teams I was only playing online. When I joined OG, I was like: ‘Yes! LAN, crowd, audience – this is gonna be fun.’ And then COVID hit and I was like: ‘Why? Why me?’

I’m just playing online again and I’m so mad. I just want LAN back.

Do you feel like you are more prone to things like stress and burnout as a result of the move to online? Some players have said the transition has led to them struggling to separate work from their personal lives. 

It is super difficult for some teams. You can see people on camera, people are getting really frustrated, mad, and burned out. Constantly you’re playing tournaments one after the other, after another. You can’t cancel these tournaments because of the HLTV rankings, so you have to play them. 

If things are going badly for the team, then it’s just pilling on and you’re getting mad, and then the whole team cohesion isn’t working as well.

With Astralis feeling the pressure of burnout, what’s your take on this issue?

I understand for Astralis, they are a really good team who have been playing non-stop LANs, they’ve won majors and everything. I understand them constantly playing and burning out. As a young player, in a young team, where you’re still not at the top, you have to push through and have to grind through these tournaments. I still think that with tournaments, the whole format should change. There should be more breaks for people to reset.

How did you get your injury? It wasn’t through physical burnout, was it? 

No, it wasn’t. I had this issue with my thumb. Every time I had it, I stopped for like a day or two and it was completely gone. One time I think I did something –  I don’t know if it was through overplaying or maybe through rapid moving – but  I completely tore it apart. 

Isn’t the issue in both hands?

Yeah. My left hand is less severe than my right hand. My right hand is mostly gone. It was really painful to play through. I was getting mentally burnt out. It’s the worst thing where people are telling me to take things slow, not to play a lot of CS:GO. Doctors were telling me ‘don’t play Counter-Strike – you can’t play this anymore’. 

Mentally, when you lose a game, obviously you’re upset. You just want to go back and grind. You want to get better, and I couldn’t. When I lose, I’m back on Deathmatch. That was making me so mad mentally and I couldn’t do anything about it. I have to practice, or rather play, and that’s it.

I was so upset, I was getting so frustrated. My friends, OG, they’ve been very supportive, telling me ‘we’ve got your back, just take things slow and recover’. 

You really wanted to play, but OG told you not to?

Yeah, like OG was telling me if you want to take a break, take a break, you know? We understand.

Were you concerned about being dropped?

No, I just don’t want to let my team down. We have a system right now. Everyone is comfortable in the team and they have to bring it.

But I will never let my team down. I will go through all the pain, unless my hand breaks or something.

What do you make of the ESIC investigation?

I understand it to some extent, especially with our coach right now. For me, and for the team as well, it was ridiculous how he got his ban from 2016. One round, where he had no idea what was happening. He had to let the game go on and reconnect through the next round because people were complaining about starting the game right now. You can see in the video that he did reconnect. 

I understand the other guys that used the bug across 100 rounds, like, that’s just ridiculous. And then there’s this one round for Casper ‘ruggah’ Due. I understand in a way, everyone has to get punished – they can’t let just anyone go. With our coach’s ban, we as a team just took it on the chin. He will take the ban. 

I’m hearing they want to ban people through stream sniping and stuff like that, and I think that got everyone worried. You have people on your accounts, for example, if you’re in a family house that are downstairs watching your game on your account, watching the stream, and you’re just thinking, would that play in any way? Would they think you’re stream sniping because you had it playing in the background? I don’t know about that. They need to give more information.

What’s the plan now that you’re coachless for the next three months? 

I think the whole CS:GO scene is coachless right now. Our coach is still working with us on practice every single day. He can’t be on official matches, but he’s still with us supporting us and helping us. I don’t think a lot has changed. We’ll see how that will go but I don’t think we will be affected as much.

Were you surprised by the number of coach bans?

I honestly thought a lot more coaches were going to get banned. I thought everyone would get banned, because the ESIC banned coaches for just one round. The thing with the coach bug; is that until now I didn’t know that it was a thing. 

Did it come to OG as a surprise?

Yeah. I was speaking to other players as well and I was thinking in my head, ‘did we ever see the bug? Did our coaches ever have the bug?’ Apparently a lot of teams recently were actually abusing the bug.

On a slightly more positive note, it looks like Cloud9 has been pushing forward with its new roster and making waves at the same time. Where do you stand on organisations releasing buy out and salary information?

Personally, I have no opinion about this. For me, it’s cool to see because in football the fans are constantly flaming. ‘You get paid like 300k a week and you are absolute garbage’. In that aspect it is cool, but other than that, I don’t really care. 

What do you make of William ‘mezii’ Merriman’s pick up too? Cloud9 surprised a lot of people with that one. 

It’s great, I’m super happy about it. I don’t know what it is with teams where they keep recycling the same players over again and not letting new people have a try. It’s the same thing with me coming into OG, and it’s the same thing happening with mezii right now.

Are there any other rookie players that you’ll think we’ll see a lot more heading into next year? 

I don’t know if you know Miłosz ‘MHL’ Knasiak from AGO, I was impressed with him, but he took a year break to go study so I don’t think we’ll be seeing him. There’s a lot of players like Dmitry ‘sh1ro’ Sokolov right now from Gambit Youngsters and Nikolay ‘mir’ Bityukov. Mir is actually insane. In practice, we have a meme – we are scared of him. If it’s a 1v1 and we press tab and it’s mir, we say to our teammate, ‘that’s it, man.’ You can’t do anything, he knows where you are, he’s behind you.’

How do you sense when players have these skills?

You have some insight watching them play. With us players, when we see a player that has ‘it’, you feel it. If he’s comfortable, he knows what he’s doing, he’s smart, he has ‘it’. I haven’t seen lots of Mezii play, but I’m sure the people that are recruiting him see something in him.

CS:GO has also lost quite a few players to Valorant in recent months – what do you make of those making the transitions. Are there any moves that have really surprised you? 

The surprise to me was the whole NA scene. If you aren’t in a top three or four team in NA, you just went straight to Valorant. You’re gone. The whole American scene is gone. I wasn’t surprised by anyone from Europe, but from America those going to Valorant, like the tier two, tier three CS:GO players. They are essentially going where the money is, and it’s really hard if you aren’t in the top tier scene to make some money.

Have you tried Valorant?

Yeah, I did…I hate it so much. I think I need a lot of time to get into a game and start liking it. I remember with Counter-Strike it was the same thing, I played it and I hated it. I was spraying on the ground, people were laughing at me. I came from Call of Duty and I was like ‘this makes no sense.’ I’m pretty sure if I played Valorant more I would start enjoying it. But with the amount of time I put into Counter-Strike, I won’t let go unless the whole scene is dead.

And finally – what are your thoughts on the MiBR situation?

It’s a shit show. I do feel bad for them, especially because they are legends. I have no personal insight with what’s happening within the team. I don’t know, but it felt like they kept recycling their fifth player. It wasn’t helping the issue. Like I said, I don’t know what the main issue was, but you could see it through their play, they were not really comfortable.