They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That doesn’t matter when the same old ones work.
For Athletico, the years of experience, both locally and internationally, have proven to be more than enough to silence any critics in Season 3. They came into this season stacked with top talent like World Cup representatives Termo (2016) and xZoL (2017), as well as players who dominated Oceania through the pre-Contenders era of Overwatch.
However, the one cloud over themselves as a team was their outspoken approach to practice – or lack thereof. Taking it casually, many doubters were concerned teams like Blank Esports and even Legacy or Mindfreak would eventually overtake the talented roster through hard work alone.
Their results, however, did the talking. Wiping Legacy out 4-0 in Week 1, they then beat Mindfreak in Week 2 in a convincing 3-1 result. Termo then left the team before their match against Sydney Drop Bears, and while they lost 0-4, a couple of close maps showed that Athletico meant business against the top teams.
Clip: xZoL lines up Blank underneath the Hanamura arch and blows them away like the cherry blossoms in spring, netting three kills and the draw.
Their biggest test lay in Week 5 though, against a well-practiced Blank Esports. With Micro established in the roster after Termo’s departure, Athletico took it to the young guns like the old days, showing them while form is temporary, class is permanent.
Off that strong result they leapfrogged Blank into second, set a date with the Mavericks for playoffs, and showed the promising team the door back to the drawing board in a 3-1 display of dominance off the back of Signed’s Zarya.
The individual components of this team are a throwback to the best players of years gone by, but they are still as solid as some of the best upcoming talent coming through the ecosystem. Players like Muni or Eevee have been out of the spotlight for some time, but still shone as brightly as they did while they were in it.
That’s not to say they’ve all been out of the spotlight for the last few months. Gob made LAN in Season 2 while playing for Order, while Project coached Dark Sided alongside now-LA Gladiators coach JohnGalt to the grand final in Melbourne. USMC just missed out on LAN with Masterminds in Season 2, and is looking to make amends for his numerous second and third-place finishes in Season 3.
I spoke to Marcus “xZoL” Jacob and George “Muni” Akritidis about the formation of the veteran squad, LAN expectations and their future as a team.
Athletico has a reputation in ANZ for being a team who doesn’t practice, but has your preparation changed as you head into LAN?
xZoL: Not really. We have done one extra block, so eight hours instead of six, because we are without Signed and we need to bring Termo back in the groove.
Muni: Yeah I guess that’s the only big thing that has changed – Signed out, Termo in – but we’ve played on that before so we can get used to it quickly so we don’t need to scrim more, but just relearn what we already knew.
It’s not like Termo’s a bad player either…
Muni: No he’s terrible!
…but he’s slowly warming back up into it yeah?
Muni: He’s just naturally good man, he picks it all back up so quickly.
xZoL: All of his experience is very helpful in him picking things back up quickly and figuring out also what he needs to learn.
Yeah, and I guess Athletico is a nice reunion of top tier players from years-gone-by, so how did the team come together?
xZoL: God, okay. I messaged Smash (Order’s manager) about making a team, and he ended up finding a way to make it happen if I could find six players and speak to Athletico. I already had six people in mind – basically the team now – and we just spoke to them and said “It’s a pretty good team, you should sign us,” and here we are today.
Muni: Yeah, just sitting there and then I get a message from Smashbrutha saying “yeah putting a team together of washed up noobs, wanna join?” I was like “is it a serious or casual team,” but he said it was casual and we could scrim as much as we wanted and then the next thing you know Athletico are on board as well and it was pretty good!
You guys have had Project and Molotov help you throughout the season, how good have they been for the team?
xZoL: Yeah Molly showed up a week prior to our playoff game against Mavericks and he’s been giving us really good advice. Him and Project have been hauling us, attempting to get us where we need to be.
Muni: The idea behind it was like – Molly said he had free time, and Project and Molly are good friends and Project is an already established, really smart coach and player while Molly is a brainy boy as well and he had free time and said “get me in.”
I was like “yeah let’s do it, you and Project can spitball ideas between each other,” and he came in like a week before the playoffs and he was quite impactful given the limited time he had to provide insight on our gameplay. Him and Project work well together as a coaching duo.
And now, for a little bit of bants… pic.twitter.com/jIsZsBD0uR
— Muni (@MuniOCE) January 8, 2019
After Termo left, you had Signed and Micro in for the season. How were they to work with?
xZoL: Yeah, they both brought their own strengths.
Muni: Micro Mei.
xZoL: Yeah, Micro Mei caught a lot of teams by surprise that we were actually able to pull it off. Signed was honestly outrageously good on Zarya and just smashed all the other Zarya’s out of the water with the speed he could build up Gravs.
Muni: He’s the best Zarya in Australia right now.
He was great in the quarter final against the Mavericks.
xZoL: Yeah, and our scrims were like that every map in the lead up to the game too. He’s absolutely insane and it gave us a massive boost of confidence.
Muni: He’s a good kid and an amazing player. He slotted in really well. As for Micro, he had his Mei – and no one liked Micro’s Mei from other teams but we loved it.
Well of course it’s good for you! If everyone else hates it you would love it!
Muni: Yeah, I remember after playing Drop Bears Hus sent me a message saying “F*** off with that Mei s*** man.” We almost took a map or two off them because of the Mei. They are incredible gamers, it just sucks they couldn’t commit this season.
Do you think they’ll go far next season then?
Muni: Signed? Probably. Micro? If he plays, then yeah.
How about yourselves, are you looking at competing next season?
xZoL: This is something we’ve spoken about, and I’m pretty sure all the players want to stay together. Some are unsure still, but the majority of guys want to stay together if it all works out for next season with background stuff. We will have to see what happens.
Muni: For the most part we are keen.
That’s fair, you’ve got a confirmed spot in Contenders so you may as well put it to use.
Muni: That’s unless Misa (Athletico’s manager) dogs the boys and sells the spot then we are good.
Up against Order, the hot favourites for LAN, in your semi, do you think you can take it to them? What will it take?
xZoL: It’s going to be very difficult, but if we somehow pull this victory from under them, we have a pretty good shot of beating Sydney Drop Bears. I honestly think Order are way better than the Drop Bears heading into LAN.
You don’t think Heist will make it through?
xZoL: Nah, I think Heist are just a worse version of Sydney Drop Bears so I don’t see them making it through.
Muni: I feel like the Drop Bears will pull through that game, but for us, that game against Order will be really hard. I agreed with what Eevee said about the game – I’m hopeful we will win, but if we take a map, that’s a win in my eyes. Order are unbelievably strong right now, and if we are able to take the entire series, God help me it’s like all the good karma coming back to me.
“We beat Blank, we beat Mavericks in playoffs and then Order at LAN? A hat trick of upsets? It could happen!”
Maybe another Roro repost then?
Muni: Maybe, but surely Order won’t be able to post their victory memes and pepes – they’ll be stumped about it like “ah f*** we won’t be able to post about us gauging Athletico’s eyes out in a pepe meme!”
Other than yourself, who do you think will win LAN and why?
xZoL: I think Order. Their team work is so good, and with Drew (Rqt) coaching, I rate him very highly and I think he’s the smartest coach in Australia and he was a big reason for all of Fusion Girls’ and Blank’s success. He’s capable of coaching those players to becoming gods, especially with Quatz now on Order, he’s a very good main tank and Unter’s a great shotcaller who’s good at Lucio too.
Muni: I agree, as much as it pains me to say so. I have respect for absolutely everyone in the scene, but for Order – I’d love to see Drop Bears win or Heist or us – but Order, their memes make me want to see an upset. That’s it.
Their banter is so tilting, they are so confident in themselves – and I respect their confidence, it’s admirable. They can win and they probably will win, but I just want to see that upset because they won’t be able to post their memes. I want to be able to physically hear Unter say “aww I can’t post me memes!” [laughing].
But I agree with everything xZoL just said, Order are overwhelmingly powerful and coordinated. After the Heist game, they’ve gone all out on improving because consistency is what they wanted to fix and I think they have fixed that, but we have to beat them to make the dream come true.
Well, thanks for taking time out to chat, and good luck at LAN!
Athletico will be looking to put their years of experience into effect at LAN against ORDER on January 20 at 1pm AEDT. You can catch the action on the Overwatch Contenders Twitch.