Fnatic Hylissang: "Right now, we trust each other way more than before. Before that, we were playing like solo queue, and not really playing as a team."

Fnatic have made the unthinkable happen over the span of six weeks.

After a botched start to the season (0-4), they recovered and scored a 9-3 run (6-1 in the second half of the split). As such, they are one win away from securing their playoff spot, failing which they could still make it – as long as SK Gaming and Misfits Gaming both lose a game.

Before playing against G2 Esports and Splyce on Week 9, we sat down with Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov and spoke about the team’s recovery, and how and why their mindset shifted.

Below is the full transcription of the interview:

It's been quite a grind for Fnatic to reverse the tide and reach the point they're in at the moment, from 0-4 to 9-7. Looking back, what stands out to you the most right now?

Right now, we trust each other way more than before. Before that, we were playing like solo queue, and not really playing as a team. [We were] looking for the highlights more than just winning games. I think we cared more about MVP votes and playing for highlights, I felt like. Right now, we don't care about this stuff; we just want to win games. We must win games to go to the playoffs.

I think we owe that to our sport psychologist and our coaches, because they did a lot of improvement in these areas.

As far as trust, only one player changed between the last year and this one. Why did that go a little haywire?

I don't even think it's because of the change. I think we forgot how to play as a team, or something. Outside of the game, we didn't do much before. Right now, we have more team activities, and meetings to talk about each other, stories in the past. Stuff like that helped us know each other better and play in-game as a team. I don't think it's because the team is new, or because Nemesis is new in the team.

I think Nemesis is fitting greatly on our team, because we can play any style. With Caps, we only had one style which was working well.

Is fishing one of the team-building activities you guys tried? [E.N.: Hylissang likes to fish during the offseason, hence the question.]

Fishing? No! *laughs* We aren't fishing together. We just play games or watch movies together. Our sports psychologist had some pretty cool tasks that we did together, and it was pretty good.

We watched series about a football team, Manchester City. There is a series about them, on how they perform on the football [pitch], what they do when they go on slumps or when they win, how they talk outside of games, and it's pretty similar to League of Legends. It's pretty cool.

[E.N.: For those curious enough to investigate the matter deeper, the series in question is All or Nothing: Manchester City, and it is available on Netflix.]

Do you remember something that was very interesting to pick up on from the show?

Their coach, Pep Guardiola, [told his players]: if they pressure you, you can just pass the ball instead of shooting it. If they don't come to you, you can keep the ball.

It's kind of the same in League of Legends: if you have the pressure, you just keep it – and you keep pushing your waves. If their jungler stays bot lane, you go to the mid lane and push, until he moves out of bot lane. If he moves out of bot lane, you pass the ball: from mid lane, you go bot, and you do the play. I think that's the most important thing I remembered.

And that's not an element that you've had before?

We had it when we had Caps – he knew how to do it. [Nemesis] was a bit lost on when to commit to the move to mid early on. This element from the show was very helpful for us.

Now, as far as you, Zdravets, are concerned, when things kept going south, how was your mindset through all of that?

As a person, I'm kind of pessimistic when we go through this type of slump, losing so many games in a row. I kind of lose hope. I was not in a good mood, and whenever I woke up, I felt like I didn't want to play. We came from such high expectations to almost being the worst team in the LEC, and I was feeling bad about it. It was sad to see, but with time, I talked to my teammates and coaches, and they helped me out. With time, I fixed it.

With team activities and some Pep Guardiola insights, you guys fixed it. There was also maybe some fun involved...

It wasn't just Pep Guardiola. It was just us as a team doing something together, having fun and enjoying it. It doesn't need to be Pep Guardiola and movies; it can be mini games. We even played football together! Maybe that's what we were missing: to have fun outside the game and inside of it as well.

At least, it relieves the pressure out of it.

Yeah! The games are so much easier when you have a different perspective in-game. When we were losing, we had a perspective of: "The game is so hard. Every lane is losing!" But right now, every lane is kind of chilling, waiting. They know we have good macro, and we have good players. We're going to do something good and outplay [our opponents,] and we're going to win. It's a totally different perspective, at least from myself, to expect my team to win every game, rather than feeling that we're going to lose [and that] I must do something.

To be honest, this is the first time in your career that you started a season on such a bad note. Even in UoL, you'd usually start the season pretty strong. That's kind of a new feeling, even for you!

Back in UoL, I've always felt that we were playing well, but the statistics were not that great. There were times when I was shocked that we were almost the last team; in my mind, I thought that we were playing well, and that we weren't that bad. It was kind of different.

At least, now, you're much closer to the playoffs. Had you told yourself that, how would you even have reacted?

I wouldn't have believed it. I didn't even think we would have made it! We needed a lot of wins. I don't know how or why, something clicked in our brains, and we were like: "We must win; we can't lose anymore. Otherwise, it's just a waste of time." We picked it up in time, and I hope we make it: it's not 100 percent [guaranteed.] We're much closer.

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