Esports, like most competitive sports activities throughout the world, is meant to be a form of respite for players and fans. When experiencing excruciating hardship, players can sometimes look to esports to refocus and rejuvenate their souls. Gambit Esports is one of many teams trying to navigate these sudden hardships.
It is through this emotional dimension where singular moments such as Chronicle’s clutch 4v1 against KRU in VALORANT Champions and Keznit’s 6-kill ace against Fnatic are principally cherished within the general fandom. Every blend of zeal, every ounce of energy, and every second of investment can be exerted without regrets. This has been esports’ fundamental and most crucial element for as long as it has existed.
At present, due to the war in Ukraine, many people have died and hundreds of thousands more have been displaced. In a matter of weeks, Europe has reverted into being at the center stage of a high-scale war for the first time since the Second World War.
In light of the conflict, many facets of society within Ukraine were paused including esports. In addition to esports events scheduled to be held in Eastern Europe now being suspended, gaming organizations ceased working with Russian teams and companies as a show of protest. There is now a haze of uncertainty regarding the future of the esports industry in this region.
Among those affected by the recent stream of sanctions and suspensions is Gambit Esports. Gambit’s VALORANT team finished as runners-up in 2021 Valorant Champions and they are currently competing in the 2022 VCT EMEA Stage 1 Challengers group stage. After Gambit started off the season with a 1-1 record, Riot Games suspended the third week of play due to the commencement of the war. Gambit’s players reacted equally as appalled as the rest of the world to the situation on the ground.
“I really don’t know what to say about all this situation,” said Gambit IGL Igor “Redgar” Vlasov on Twitter. “All [these] things are crazy. I hope that [it ends] asap. Praying for everyone who can get hurt in this conflict.”
Nikita “d3ffo” Sudakov, Gambit’s Duelist, posted a video of missiles being launched to the air, saying “No way that’s real in our times. Idk what to say.”
In light of stomaching the stark reality of their own country entering a state of war, Gambit had to remain vigilant with their current affairs, which was becoming increasingly dire.
As they awaited an update from Riot, they saw the rest of their peers get shunned from their respective games. Tournament organizer Blast Premier banned all Russian teams from competing in their CS:GO events. ESL barred those associated with the Russian government, “including individuals or organizations under alleged or confirmed EU sanctions related to the conflict.” Elsewhere, Valve decided to postpone the 2022 DPC Spring Tour for Eastern Europe.
As more bans continued being to ring out for Russian teams and organizations amid the conflict, the attention inevitably moved towards Gambit. Fans wondered whether they, revered by most as one of VALORANT’S first true great teams, would receive the same grim fate.
But as it stands, Gambit’s future status in the VCT remains uncertain. Riot announced the EMEA VCT will restart with three series played for Week 4. Of the teams participating, not a single one includes a team from the CIS region (Gambit, Na’Vi, or FunPlus Phoenix).
“We’re aware that some teams are facing uncertainty regarding if they can continue competing in VCT EMEA with their current starting rosters,” said Riot’s Valorant Esports staff. “Our Competitive Operations Teams are in close communications with these teams, and are exploring potential adjustments to the League’s regulations that will help them navigate through the coming weeks.”
By way of circumstances far beyond their control, Gambit players are stuck in a state of limbo. Not only are they unable to play at the moment, but they are also residing in an unstable region where it is becoming unfeasible to compete regardless of the esports game. This makes it all the more tragic considering how EEU/CIS is regularly hailed as a major esports power. But with many of the teams, such as Gambit, virtually gone from the VALORANT competitive scene, there is now a void that may be too vast for anyone else to fill.