ESIC ban three coaches from attending Antwerp Major, 9z respond with hashtag campaign

9z's zakk. Source: PGL

Three Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO) coaches have been banned by the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) just days prior to the start of the Antwerp Major the trio was due to work for their respective teams. According to reports, Team Spirit’s Sergey "hally" Shavayev and 9z’s Rafael "zakk" Fernandes have been informed they have been sanctioned this week by ESIC, while confirmation is still pending on the ban for Imperial’s Luis “Peacemaker” Tadeu.


The bans were first stated on Twitter by OverDrive, and two were later confirmed when Spirit's Twitter account and 9z's founder reacted. and made clear their displeasure at the situation, which they believe to be unfair. Peacemaker's ban is not official yet, but his is the most widely expected given the evidence already made public in a Jaxon report published in recent weeks.


Sanctions relate to abuse of a bug that allowed coaches to log into a game of CSGO and fly around as what is essentially an invisible camera account. This obviously gives the coaches access to massive amounts of information, and in an online setting where communication with the team is impossible to police, becomes extremely easy to abuse, should the coach be so inclined.


So far zakk has responded to the sanctions by complaining about the timing, and stating he does not have the memory to recall the rounds in question. However, in the very next sentence he states he is 'sure' he was away during at least one, making it difficult to ascertain what his exact defence currently is, or why he didn't try and notify any sort of official at the time.



So far this bug and other variants have taken an incredible toll on the professional scene, with multiple coaches banned across the last year or so, and these new sanctions are just the tip of an iceberg that may be a hundred deep. Due to the report linked above, Peacemaker’s likely ban is expected to some extent, while the other two coaches have only just been revealed as the target of ESIC’s decrees.


This is esports, so of course the instant reaction from those close to the banned parties was mixed, and in some places quite amusing. Francisco Postiglione, the founder of 9z, reacted to his coach being banned by asking how you could possibly sanction someone in 2022 for something that happened in 2018, and urged fans to start a hashtag movement in an attempt to overturn the decision.


Postiglione also revealed that zakk’s flights had been canceled as part of his ‘punishment’, although it seems more likely this was done to discourage teams from simply moving the banned coach into an analyst position and bringing them along anyway. Imperial are yet to comment on Peacemaker’s ban, but Team Spirit also took to Twitter to express their unhappiness with the decision made against their coach hally.



In their statement posted to Twitter, Team Spirit tore into ESIC, criticizing the group and stating how unfair it is that their coach has been sanctioned. Some aspects of the statement should be taken with a pinch of salt, as they also claim not to be aware of ESIC’s code despite it being part of the ESL’s rulebooks, and claim to have no idea who the ESIC commissioner (Ian Smith) is despite that information being freely available on ESIC’s own Wikipedia page.



While the scene was split on the decisions, most were unanimous in their judgement that the timing of the sanctions was unfortunate, and has the potential to punish players unfairly. ESIC are yet to comment on the bans, but this would not be the first time they have drawn the ire of the CSGO community.

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