Hanka on the development of CS2 women’s scene: “I think ESL see potential in us and in this scene”

Олексій Харченко

NAVI Javelins' Hanka Pudlis gave talked with Players Editor-In-Chief Alex Kharchenko at IEM Dallas 2024.. We discussed the team's performance at the ESL Impact League Season 5 Finals and the development of the CS2 women's scene.  

Coming back to the last game against Fluxo Demons. What happened? They made a comeback from 9:1. What was the main reason? Was it like a snowballing effect? Nerves? Pressure? 

We were really comfortable during this whole match-up, I would say. But on the last map, we were leading so much. But at one point, they just started doing a comeback.

And right now, with the new format, MR12, it's way easier to do comebacks than in the previous format. So I think it just matters. In one round, we needed one more frag, for example.

It was like little mistakes we made, and the outcome was that we lost. So it was really hurtful, but it was all about us. I think we played worse than they played better in this context.

We just let them have the momentum, and that's it, actually.

What about your personal performance and overall the performance of the team? If we look at stats of Fluxo Demons players, only yungher showed the most impressive stats.

I think we did really, really good during this whole match-up.

It was like 3 long maps, so it was hard to stay focused and to have amazing performance on every map. But I think every one of us had their moments during the whole match-up. And of course, we really tried our best, but in the end, it was a matter of a couple of frags, and that's it, actually.

I was watching the game in the arena and noticed how active and sometimes even a bit aggressive were the supporters of Fluxo Demons. If we talk about this specific match and performance in LANs overall, how difficult for you and for the team to play in front of the audience? 

Obviously, we hear everything from the audience, because it's not that far away from the stage.

Sometimes it helps, sometimes it's just an advantage for us. But after playing so many tournaments, I think it's not a big deal for us, because we know how to deal with it. And in the end, we are really locked into our game, not minding the audience, to be honest.

I'm asking this question, because previously you had your own kryptonite - Nigma Galaxy. Now it’s Pigeons and Imperial Fe. You won them in April this year, online. But if we look at year stats timeframe, there were losses on LANs. 

I think LAN is completely different from online. We started winning them, Imperial Fe, we won two times in a row, one month ago, online. In the past, we haven't been winning against them at all, even online.

So I think we didn't have a way to face them offline this season, because we lost. So we cannot say who is better right now, offline even. But in the past, they were better for sure.

Right now, I'm not sure about this. I think we are really, really close to beating them offline even. But I think it wasn't a matter of the crowd, of the offline event.

Every loss is because of mistakes, and that's it. It's just CS things. 

ESL told Players that this year the capacity of ESL Impact arena is the biggest in history of all events. Any kind of pressure and emotions, or not at all? 

For me, as a person, I don't mind at all.

I only focus on my game and to just communicate. And when I'm in-game, I don't have time to even think about something different than CS, and what's going on. 

I'm completely zoned out from the world. So I think it's good, and I think for my team it's also working, because we just play like this, actually. 

Again, coming back to the Nigma Galaxy. It was a long-term rivalry, now again it's with Pigeons and Imperial Fe. You finally beat them at the EPL League final. But right now, what we see in terms of the stats, you lost to the teams that are a bit lower levels, compared to NAVI. For example, Let Her Cook.

Yeah, but I think it's just all about CS. We lost against Let Her Cook in the BO1, MR12, so it's just super hard to play against such a mixed team.

They just created this team, I don't know, maybe two months ago, something like this. They had changes after the season, and they came to LAN with a new lineup.

So for me, we knew it was going to be a hard game, because it's BO1. I'm not a fan of this format, but I think it just could go both ways, actually. 

Is it about the lack of potential time to come back, because it's basically one map? 

Yeah, basically if you lose two pistol rounds in best of one, you're basically out of the game. It's really hard to come back in this type of situation, especially when you just let the opponent's team have their momentum, then it's completely done, actually.

You're part of the core Polish roster of NAVI for quite a lot of time now. From your point of view, does the local Polish scene have resources to supply more players who will compete in top LANs? 

Sadly, I don't think there are new players coming into the Polish female scene. I would like to see more young players trying to compete, trying to be better, but I don't see any right now.

I was one of them, like little girls who wanted to achieve something, and I started playing when I was 14 years old. So, yeah, it's really sad that right now we don't have that many opportunities for women. Maybe that's why they don't want to play, I don't know, but maybe in the future it's going to change. I hope so.

Right now we have the only tournament operator, which is ESL, that is doing a lot for women's teams. Do you know why other TOs are not investing in women's leagues and tournaments? 

It's hard to tell, but I think ESL just see potential in us and in this scene.

I think the women's scene really developed during this every season, the scene got more competitive, and we are just better players, like everyone, because of these opportunities we've been given. 

So, I think year by year it's going to be better, and maybe more organizers are going to see potential in the women's scene, actually. 

What do women teams need to change or work on to be competitive with Tier 2 or Tier 3 men's teams? 

I think we are getting closer to Tier 2, Tier 3 teams every year. And I think women who really want to achieve something and to be maybe in the future play in the mixed teams, they should focus to just be better.

We see a lot of good players. For example, Ana, Vicu and other players can really compete with men right now. And I think it's just a matter of time when more women are going to achieve this kind of level, this knowledge about CS, and we're going to implement it in our game. 

Let’s come back a bit to the tournaments. If we look at the prize pool, it's lower compared to the men. Is it a problem? Is it a gender pay problem for you? 

Obviously, it's a factor. Like, for me, it's not that big deal.

But obviously, if we play full time, we want to get something as a reward, right? I think there should be more money. But at the same time, I'm this kind of person who only wants to win not for money, but just for my goals and for my dreams. But it should be more as a reward, as I said.

You mentioned goals and dreams. What are your main dreams right now? What are your main goals with NAVI?

My main goal, my personal goal, is to be the best in the female scene and to finally win some offline tournament. Yeah, it's just my personal goal and I just want to achieve it.

Will it be possible to see a mixed roster of men and women in the next two years?

I think two years is going to be enough to do it. Maybe not for everyone, but for 1% of the whole women's scene, I think it's going to be possible in two years to play in the mixed teams.

But it's not only about the women, but it's all about the men also. If they're going to be open-minded to just play with a woman and, like, see her as a player, right? Like, a good player who can do anything. 

I think it's both sides' work to do. 

Are you seeing the shift of men reacting to women on the CS? We all know stories about toxic environment, when you are playing CS. 

Obviously, we face a lot of toxicity in Faceit games, but who cares about these people, right? They're, no one, basically. As

for the players who play in Tier 2, Tier 3 teams, I think they know how important it is for us and I think they're not toxic to us because we have the same dreams. 

Are they open to play with women? 

We don't know because it hasn't happened yet. It’s hard to tell, but I think they would be open, actually. I have this hope that they will just like to play with women one day.

I have a small insight for you. We talked with ESL executives during a closed media forum at IEM Dallas and their vision is that in the future there should be mixed teams. 

That's super cool because for now, we are playing only on the female scene. My goal is to be the best in the female scene, but in the future, when the mixed team is going to pop up, for me it's going to be even more motivation because I want to prove to everyone that I can compete on a mixed team. I'm really looking forward to playing in the mixed team and I cannot see first women who want to join one.

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