"I don't give a damn who I'm playing"
As promised, the second Life EXP. guest is Anton “boX” Burko, captain of team Nemiga. To some extent, his life path is similar to that of his teammate Alexandr “mds” Rubets, but in the case of our today's hero, it was not only his family and his dedication at the time of training that helped him achieve success but also his titanic strength of character. Together with his sister Yulia, Anton talks about his life, which is more of a sports drama than a life story.
I probably decided to become an athlete when I would go outside to play, being a very young boy. I was seven or eight years old. At that time, all the guys from my neighborhood used to play soccer, and I, a kid who was three or four years younger, would also come and think I could do just as well. I could do better, I get a thrill from a good match, I like the spirit of competition, and I want to play. I guess it was then that it dawned on me subconsciously that I wanted to go pro in sports.
At the age of 10, I started playing soccer, and I only had one goal ever since — to become a soccer player. It was already more conscious, I guess. If before, according to my parents, I would sometimes say something like “I want to be president,” at the age of 10–11, I used to say that I would only be a soccer player. That much was clear to me.
At the age of 14, I entered an Olympic reserve school and graduated three years later. When you graduate from such an institution, you have to sign your first professional contract. So, at the age of 17, I returned to my native Bobruisk and signed a contract with FC Belshina. I started out playing in the second string, but at the age of 19, they started inviting me to the starters. I played there for eighteen months.
I remember the moment when I was first invited to join the junior national team. It was nice to be among the best players of my age in the country. But what left the coolest memories was the Cup match with Granit — the quarter-finals, I think. It was my first match for the starters at the Cup. The weather was right for soccer — rainy, and the field was so dirty, you are 18 or 19, and you go out to play with older dudes to a full stadium. The buzz I got from that atmosphere is imprinted in my mind. Such a positive thrill.
For about eighteen months, I have played for the starters, and then I retired due to injury. Without dabbling in medical terminology, people have joints, and they tend to disintegrate. This usually happens around the age of 60. To one of my joints, it happened at 20. It was most likely a complication. I had chickenpox at the age of 19, and since this is an advanced age for having this disease, it was severe, and it is suspected that everything happened because of it.
There was no despair, but there was a stupor and even a sort of trance. All your life, everything you have devoted yourself to, years and years of training were all wiped out. At that time, my loved ones helped me a lot, supporting me. Always, in everything, in every moment, without a hint of reproach, even though words can't tell how much effort had been invested in me.
While in treatment, I started playing CS:GO a lot. This pastime would distract me from mulling over what was going on around me, even though terrible things were happening. I was keeping busy so as not to give in to despair, but I really liked the game, and in the end, it was what I committed myself to. So, CS has helped me a lot to pull myself together.
My parents supported my choice to go into esports, but my case cannot be compared with most people's. I was already an adult when I made this decision — I was 21. It's different with kids aged 16–18. It was easier for my parents to accept my idea and my desire to play than it would have been for the parents of an 18-year-old whose adult life is just beginning.
But I wasn't about to leave sports. Things can happen in life, and we don't know what the future holds. Perhaps I could have met someone who would have persuaded me to move on to a different field, but I didn't think of it myself. I loved soccer, and I still do. The first thought I have when asked about what I will do, if not soccer or esports, is “I'm going to be a coach.” I like soccer, and I like to understand it. Besides, at the age of 18, I got admitted to a sports university, and for five years, I have studied by correspondence. I have a double major — I'm a soccer coach and a physical education teacher.
The uni and stuff are great, but I see room to grow. Take the job of a coach, for example, — there are coaching courses from UEFA that would be nice to complete. While I'm fully immersed in esports, I don't have much time on my hands, nor do I want to exert myself trying to be in two places at the same time. So I only have plans to take these courses, and I want to get down to it. But I don’t know when yet, and how to make sure that it doesn't interfere with my primary occupation.
My soccer experience has helped my esports career a lot. I know what it means to set goals for yourself and pursue them. I know what a team is. There are no fundamental differences between CS and soccer. The only difference is what parts of your body you use to play. Everything else — the team, the management, everything that happens on the pitch, your mental process when playing — is very similar.
Here's an important point — playing soccer, you use your brains no less than playing CS:GO. The body does what you want it to, so, in fact, in both games, you play with your brain. Both soccer and esports are intellectual work. I think many don't know it, but soccer players are highly intelligent people, especially those who play at a high level. No matter how that sounds, it's true. People get the wrong idea about soccer players because their thinking has a very narrow focus. But what they do on the pitch isn't what any fool could do, even if you trained him. Reflexes are only a very small part of what happens in sports on and off the pitch. I understand that it is hard to grasp for a person who has never played soccer, but you just have to believe it, as well as the fact that a fool would never become a good soccer player.
To be honest, I have never paid attention to where I stand in the tournament table. I want more; I want to rank higher. I couldn't care less what tags I am ranked between because Nemiga can always do better. The more you have, the more you want, if you know what I mean.
The latest RMR season has brought a lot of memorable moments. All the victories were cool and interesting in their own way, although the only detail that is different is how strong the opponent is. It's much more satisfying to win against the strong. For example, we beat team Spirit on two RMRs when we qualified for the same group and then outplayed them in the semifinals. Wins over forZe also feel good. We got the upper hand twice: in the first tournament, we didn’t let them out of the qualifiers, and in the second one didn’t let them out of the group.
The most painful defeat was against NAVI. It's just the moment when you kind of dominate... but that's why you don't earn match points. But it's not even painful because it's NAVI for us. I don't give a damn who I'm playing. It's painful because, for most people around us, it's NAVI. That is, you are not disappointed because you lost to NAVI, but because you have let down the people who would want you to beat NAVI. That's what matters to me.
My teammates are people who create the team atmosphere. When they get positive, they help. When they get all negative, they sabotage themselves. In general, I only influence them by example, but each situation is different. There are situations when I will intentionally say nothing. There are situations when I will unintentionally say nothing. There are situations where I can snap and yell at them or something like that. But speaking of maintaining discipline — if I do something, I do it unconsciously. In our team, the main authority on these matters is keep3r.
Speaking more specifically about teammates, let's take mds, for example. Sasha is a guy with whom it is difficult to have a conflict. No, he won't put up with things and keep quiet — he can stand up for himself, but he will never be the initiator. He is good at following orders — in the game, he will follow instructions carefully and without hesitation. This is his best merit.
If esports did influence me as a person, it certainly wasn't in a bad way. I have a hobby — I play soccer. I have a long-term relationship with my girlfriend. I have friends who I see on weekends — we hang out and chill. Indeed, there is a stereotype that computers and esports take up all your free time. But it doesn't matter at all whether you do computers or soccer or anything else. If you want to advance, you will. But computers have nothing to do with the problems of those who think they are to blame.
There is very little I like about pop culture. First of all, CS:GO, but that's obvious :) I can also name the “Prison Break” TV show. It's American, of course. In a movie, the first thing I look at is the idea, and I think that in “Prison Break,” it's genius. I listen to different music, and I get tired of most of it after three times, so there is no one track that would make an impression on me. I don't read books. I have read three books in all my life: the ABC book, a biography of Leo Messi, and the third one… I guess I can't quite name it. Throughout my life, I have tried about a dozen games, including CS, Dota, FIFA, PUBG, and so on. I recently remembered about “Serious Sam,” which I played as a child. Perhaps there was GTA with friends. But there are no other games that I really liked.
I mentioned Messi because I admired him when I was younger. I would look at him as a player — not a human — and I would see something supernatural. And I admired it. In football, there were some things in which I wanted to be like him. I don’t think he was my idol — rather a role model. An idol is something more — it's when it's not only a person's work that you like. My father is my idol, perhaps, — I know everything about him. And Messi is a soccer player who I like as an athlete.
I don't think I have an idol at all today. But there are people who inspire me — my loved ones are the first to come to mind. Their support means a lot to me. If I could arrange a perfect vacation for myself, it would be on a sandy beach by an ocean, where you could play soccer with friends and have your loved ones near. The process itself is also inspiring. Any process. If we talk about esports — it's the process of the game that's inspiring. I get a buzz from what's going on around me. I don't have to look to the outside for it to fuel me — when I'm in the game, it's clear to me that I'm enjoying it. It's the game itself that fuels me. The buzz from all the victories is enough in itself.
We believe that a story about personal experiences and views cannot be complete without an outside perspective. So, it's Yulia, Anton's sister, who picks up the story.
When Anton realized he could no longer play soccer, we were all really worried about him. It was the support of his loved ones that helped him most. We believed that he would return to soccer — he had a tremendous desire to do it again. It appeared that he went to study to be a coach in order to pursue a career in this role. But he still went into CS:GO.
After a while, Anton said “I want to try playing CS:GO professionally,” and I didn't understand it at the time. I wasn't aware it could also be a job where you make money. But our parents supported him immediately and accommodated his wishes. They know that Anton knows what he's doing. He always gives everything a lot of thought — where to go, what to do. I don’t think my brother would have made such a decision lightly, on a whim, because he started gaming when he was still playing soccer. The year was 2014 or 2015, I guess. He tried CS and Dota 2, he would go to computer clubs with the guys. Then he started playing at home and realized that he was good at it.
When he was playing for GoodJob, and he started taking part in major LAN tournaments in Minsk with the team, we started coming to cheer and to watch. All our family would come to cheer him on both in soccer and CS, and we even watch online matches as a family usually. I realized that esports has united a lot of people who put their soul and money into it, and it's not just all fun and games — it will result in sort of a career.
I like what my brother does, and I like that he likes it. If he goes on to advance in esports, I will only support him. When he moved to Nemiga, I was very happy for him. He became captain both there and in GoodJob — for me, it was also an important, memorable moment. It's nice to see Anton get recognized as a leader.
When my brother switched to CS:GO, he started achieving certain success, he started earning a different amount. He started setting goals, and he is moving towards them. Anton has matured. Even during games, I see that he is the captain, the leader. It's really cool to have the team follow him and listen to him.
It's not only on stage that he's like that — I see him as the same leader at home. Now, in some things, I put him above mom and dad because he is able to achieve what I or others cannot at his age. To me, Anton is an example to follow. I even keep telling my son: “Be like Anton.” And for me, having such a brother is a big plus.
Same as last time, there will be a teaser instead of a conclusion. The next Life EXP. guest will be a player from another team whose name you may have noticed in the text. To pursue a career in esports, the hero of the upcoming interview has had to sacrifice a prestigious and lucrative career that his parents were preparing him for. How hard was the conflict, and how did our anonymous hero deal with it? You will find out later.
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