When he initially joined Team Liquid in January 2016, Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev surely could not have forseen the year ending with him being crowned as Red Bull’s “eSports player of the year”. The Ukrainian bested popular League of Legends and Rocket League stars Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok and Francesco “Kuxir97” Cinquemani to claim the popularity prize.
The 19 year old professional Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player won the poll with 40,000 votes, concluding a rollercoaster of a year for the volatile talent. S1mple’s four month stint with Team Liquid at the very beginning of the year was a notably turbulent period, with the Ukranian being forced to play alongside arch-rival Eric “adreN” Hoag, a player he notoriously failed to get along with.
S1mple was left to acclimatise to his new environment on his own in Liquid’s League of Legends gaming house, away from his friends, family and girlfriend. His new setting was far from ideal for dealing with his attitude problems towards certain players and adjusting to his new life in North America. Unsurprisingly, s1mple announced his departure from Team Liquid in the month after MLG Columbus.
Yet, after Liquid swapped Koosta for Josh “jdm64” Marzano, s1mple temporarily rejoined the team as a stand-in to help them make it all the way to the finals of the next major, ESL One Cologne 2016 – a testament to his startling talents. After his performance in Cologne, he opted to join Natus Vincere, replacing Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko on his way to wining ESL New York 2016 just two months after joining the team; finally the Ukrainian looked settled.
Throughout the year, S1mple has carried the label attached to him regarding his attitude, fuelled by conflicts that he has had with both adreN and koosta and a long history of perceived exile from major teams that have blacklisted his services due to the previous damage.
Whilst many justified S1mple’s magnetism towards conflict as being a result of his youth, others choose not to. The reputation the young Ukranian’s ESL ban remains a contentious topic, especially following last years competitive cheating ban from ESL, which expired in February of 2016 (a particularly huge blow given that ESL hosted two of the three majors in 2015).
As the recipient of the Red Bull eSports player of the year award – a popularity contest by all accounts – the majority of CS:GO fans have shown themselves to still have faith in s1mple. The reward will hopefully set the tone of what is to come from the star man in 2017. With both an incomparable level of individual skill and a spot on one of the best rosters in the world, things look set to get even better for the fan favourite.