Team Serbia qualified for the $1,500,000 WSG Global Grand Finals. Nikola ‘LeBronDota’ Popović, the position four support of Team Serbia was happy to join us for a chat about the difficulties that Serbian players have to overcome, about what qualifying for a tournament like this means for his country and about his overall impression on the event.

The interview took place on the first day of WESG Barcelona EU and CIS regional qualifiers finals, moments after his team qualified for the Grand Finals in China.

Congrats on qualifying for the 1.5M Dollars WESG Global Grand Finals, how does it feel to have the month of March 2018 booked with Team Serbia? 

Now, I’m relaxed and relieved. I must say that we were a bit worried because we finished the group stage tied with Notail’s Danish team so we had to wait for their game vs Netherlands to see who qualifies. We won vs Danish Dynamite, in fact, that was our opening game here and we took a 23 minutes victory against them, so we are the ones qualifying for China.

Yeah, I can see why you were a bit stressed with the group stage matches. Theoretically, the teams here are mixes of top tier players with some young talents, but then you were in a group with Team Sweden- Loda, Akke, iNsania, Danish Dynamite- Notail, Babyknight, Biver, Netherlands with SingSing and SexyBamboe, so yeah, not one of the easiest groups. So, tell me, now that you qualified already and saw a little bit of other matches as well, how do you find WESG Barcelona, what’s your impression on the tournament? 

I quite like the idea of representing your country in a big tournament format

To be honest I have mixed feelings. On one hand it’s nice to have a tournament like this, because it’s a new experience, it’s very different from what anyone is used to play during the season, it forces you to think outside the box, to train a bit different, to look at different things in terms of strategies and so on. I also quite like the idea of representing your country in a big tournament format.

On the other hand, finding or putting together a national roster can be extremely challenging for some countries. I mean, there are these few countries where the esports scene is already super big. So, obviously, Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, are already in a place where they can easily bring two teams to an event like this. But for us, for Serbia is actually a bit hard to find a team, a roster that can come to qualifiers and crush everything around. But I’m very happy with my Team Serbia and I hope that our performance will be much better in China. I’m sure that pretty soon WESG or the Olympic format actually, will become a huge thing in esports as well, and I believe that this can be a good boost for any young player, and a motivation source for all the youngsters out there.

You said it wasn’t that easy to gather a team for this, so tell me how did Team Serbia become reality? 

We don’t have an overwhelming amount of professional players in Serbia but we are lucky that the few of us who play competitively know each other really well, and we just took the best players we have in the country on each position.

Fair enough. Are there any good  Serbian pub players, guys that might be in the above 7K MMR bracket but didn’t have a chance at joining a pro team?

there a lot of extremely talented players, the Serbian community is great, but the general mentality about esports, or a Dota professional career, is still quite behind

Oh yes, there a lot of extremely talented players, the Serbian community is great, but the general mentality about esports, or a Dota professional career, is still quite behind. Most of the good players we have can’t really turn to a professional career because they are either not allowed by their families, or they need to sustain themselves from a so called “real job”. For example, all my trying to balance what we do in Dota with studies. In fact, all my teammates, are still studying. So, I guess for most of the Serbian, if not all the Serbian players, the time when you can focus only on your career is when you are grown enough to separate from your parents or when you move out to the big city to study and you are finally able to play without having your parents behind watching after you all the time.

You are now playing for Double Dimension, and of course, the main focus of your team is on Majors and Minors qualifiers. There’s plenty of them until March 2018 when the WESG Global Grand Finals will take place, so what will do if you qualify with DD for a Minor or a Major that might overlap with WESG? 

No doubt if I qualify with my team to a Minor or Major I’ll go to that. I just really hope that WESG will be able to set the Global Grand Finals dates, such way so everyone can attend.

Yeah, the new Pro Circuit is so packed, there are so many qualifiers going on, I’ve seen a lot of the players here having to stay up until late hours to play qualifiers with their teams after they finished the games here, in Barcelona. Tell me what you think about the Pro Circuit. 

Well, I find the new points system extremely good and something that we really needed in Dota but there are a few things that could be looked into and improved maybe next year. The number of qualifiers for example. What I don’t like about how the schedule goes, as of now, is the fact that even if you qualify for something, you don’t have time to properly prepare for that event. In the previous year, if you qualified for a Major, you had all the time to set up a bootcamp and go train for the Major exclusively. Now, there is no real time to bootcamp for Majors. There are months in the year when you have even two Major LANs and a few minors as well. So yeah, I think the schedule is a bit too packed.

Alright, your teammates are waiting to join them for lunch, so any final words, any shout-outs?

Shout-out to everyone in Serbia who cheer for us, and shout-out to Stefan ‘RealToxi’ Stamatovic who help us with the training process for this and took such good care of us during this trip! Also, shout-out to my family.

Team Serbia roster: 

Serbia Uros ‘Swiftending’ Galic
Serbia Dusko ‘BoraNija’ Boranijasevic
Serbia Nenad ‘grizine’ Lukic
Serbia Nikola ‘LeBron’ Popovic
Serbia Sasa ‘Emperor’ Bajric
Serbia Stefan ‘RealToxi’ Stamatovic (coach)