Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev is a Ukrainian professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive AWPerfor Natus Vincere (NAVI). He is known as one of the greatest players in the world. Recently, his team received the Intel Grand Slam award at the IEM Katowice opening ceremony.
Upon receiving the award, s1mple took the microphone from his teammates and said, “I want you to know that esports is outside of politics. All our players, all players from different teams, and all of you have nothing to do with government decisions. My whole career I played with Ukrainian players, I played with Russian players, and I played with American players. And all of them: great guys. Right now, I stand with my real friends. We win together and we lose together. All of us want peace for Ukraine and for [the] whole world. All of us [are] scared. All of us need to show [an] example in this tournament, for the whole world. We need to stay together as a unit with our friends, with our fans, with everyone who is gonna watch this tournament. We all need to stay humans first.”
Russian troops are closing in on Ukraine’s capital, days after Russia’s leader, Putin, ordered a full-scale invasion from the north, east and south. Airports and military headquarters were hit first then tanks and troops rolled into Ukraine from Russia, Russian-annexed Crimea and ally Belarus. Russia seeks to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government. Putin’s goal is to free Ukraine from oppression and “cleanse it of the Nazis”. What Russia’s plans are for Ukraine are unknown, but it faces stiff resistance from its citizens.
With Russia’s attack on Ukraine being so prominent in the media, many Ukrainians have no escape and many Russians are facing xenophobia for their nationality. However, s1mple’s message put Putin aside and brought forward a sense of unity and friendship between the two nationalities. In addition to speaking in support of his home country, s1mple also donated $33,000 USD to the Ukrainian army. He has been traveling to tournaments with NAVI, but it is unsure if he will be able to return home to Ukraine.
NAVI has since released a statement and updates regarding Ukraine and the Russian army nearing Kyiv. They have also changed their profile picture to the Ukrainian flag in support. Additionally, many other esports teams and organizations have also changed their profile pictures to the Ukrainian flag, spoken up in support, and have shared many resources to donate. Team Liquid is going the extra mile and offering housing accommodations to not only their players but everyone in the esports community. They are providing shelter in their Team Liquid apartments based in the Netherlands to anyone that reaches out.