The world’s top team in Counter-Strike made waves recently with an untimely exit from one of the game’s most prestigious leagues.
Swedish team Ninjas in Pyjamas have been considered through the majority of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s lifespan to be the world’s best team. It was only natural that they take part in the European branch of the latest invitational ESEA season, which features nearly $50,000 in prize money.
That European competition runs parallel to a North American competition, with the top four teams in each division qualifying for the global final held in Dallas, Texas. But for all their skill and ability, Ninjas in Pyjamas have now guaranteed that they won’t be making the trip to Dallas.
After getting off to a slow start with a record of only two wins to four losses, the team abruptly withdrew from the competition.
This has created a stir within among the Counter-Strike community. Why would one of the favorites withdraw from a prestigious league with $50,000 on the line, a not insignificant prize purse?
The Swedes did compete in the previous ESEA Invite season, taking the top spot in the European division and traveling to Dallas for the final.
But the final proved a disastrous one relative to the standard that had previously been set by the team, as for the first time in two years they were unable to place within the top four following losses to Cloud9 (then playing as Complexity) and Virtus Pro.
Some fans have questioned whether the team is simply dodging the event, a rare tournament that actually requires them to travel across the Atlantic to compete, something that is normally expected of the North American teams.
The team is not bereft of other excuses however. They are currently competing in multiple leagues besides ESEA Invite, and Ninjas in Pyjamas coach Frank Pita attempted to clarify in an interview with local Swedish website Aftonbladet that the players had simply decided to focus on the myriad other competitions they’re involved in.
It’s also worth noting that DreamHack Winter is set to be held one week before the ESEA final, though one could argue that the close proximity of the two events would have, if anything, left the team better prepared.
Both sides lost to Ninjas in Pyjamas earlier in the season. After Ninjas in Pyjamas declared their intention to cease competing in ESEA, the Swedish team’s remaining games were forfeit, but their wins over Mousesports and Natus Vincere still stand. This could potentially leave those two teams at a disadvantage compared to others in the league simply because the schedule had them facing off with Ninjas in Pyjamas prior to the Swedish side dropping from the league.
In the past, ESEA has at times chosen to clear all wins had by teams who drop out of the competitions. But for whatever reason, that has yet to happen in this instance.
Either way, time will tell whether the world’s best team’s decision to forgo one of the year’s premier competitions will in some way pay off.