Hometown Heroes: Redgar and Nats
Welcome back to Hometown Heroes! One of the greatest things about esports is how it brings people from many backgrounds and many places together, in pursuit of one shared goal. With EMEA and our Valorant team especially, we’ve got an international roster that pulls from many different cultures. So Hometown Heroes is our series spotlighting that through each member of the Team Liquid VALORANT roster.
This week's entry features the incredible duo of Igor "Redgar" Vlasov and Ayaz "nAts" Akhmetshin, who each grew up in Russia — but in pretty different parts: Moscow and Kazan respectively. They tell us about what they love most about going home, saving the world from evil organizations, and finding the best kebab in Berlin.
What makes the places where you grew up unique?
Redgar: I grew up in Moscow. I wasn't born there, but I've been there since – I don't remember the exact date – but since I was three years old or so. The most specific things I remember are the views and the parks.
There is a forest in front of where I live. I go there on holiday to BBQ with some of my friends. It brings back good memories whenever I look at it. Especially when I smell BBQ.
Of course my parents and my family as well. They remind me of home.
nAts: For me, it's definitely my parents, my brothers, girlfriend, my little cat, Chanelle, and my doggies, of course. That's the picture that comes to my head when I think of home. I'm from Kazan.
After that I love to walk around in the city. I like architecture. I always remember the University and the different parks.
My cat is not big, but I've known her since she was a baby. My father gets mad at her sometimes so I have to protect her (laughs).
(Kazan Federal University, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. — Kazan Federal University is a well-known university in Russia. Built in 1804, it’s an old and pretty significant institution. It has housed both the creator of non-Euclidean geometry, Nikolai Lobachevsky, and the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin.)
Do you have any traditions that you and your families practice at home?
nAts: The only traditions I keep are the ones I do before matches, so I can't say more about that. But outside that something that we do in Kazan, and throughout the Republic of Tatarstan, is drink tea. So I'm always drinking tea. Not as much as I drink when at home, though.
Redgar: It's not special to my home town, but I used to spend the evening with my brother and talk about everything. Now we use Discord sometimes. I like to meet with my friends on Discord and hang out over the weekend, too. Like eight or ten people. Just talking about everything and playing some games.
Do you have a favorite type of tea? Something that reminds you of home?
nAts: I drink all of them. I don't have a favorite. I'm switching between flavors constantly. Here, in Berlin, I'm drinking mostly green and black tea.
(Russian tea culture is old and unique, centered around chai and heavier black teas. Tea is a key part of hospitality in Russia, often served with a pryaniki, a honey spice cookie.)
What do you remember most from when you first met?
Redgar: It's funny, because we met at bootcamp. We all met for the first time, but it was only a couple hours because of COVID.
nAts: I wasn't there.
Redgar: It was Chronicle and the others then.
nAts: To be honest I don't even remember. We only went to bootcamp for the second EMEA qualification, when we were qualifying for Masters Berlin. The qualification for Iceland was all online. I thought we were going to do the same thing. It's just one new person. I had played with you a lot already. We had already won a tournament.
We hadn't met each other but we had already played together for six months.
Redgar: It wasn't a meeting we remember. It was just another day. We knew each other from playing online for a long time.
I do remember the first time I played at the trials tournament. It was three years ago. I just remember that we played on stream together that morning. We were just talking to each other. I had the same feeling that my brother had. That you were a good guy.
nAts: Thank you.
You're staying in Berlin for the EMEA League this season. What have you enjoyed about the city?
Redgar: Kebab. When we stayed here during Champions we really liked this kebab place. We wanted to come back and eat it together again and then we found out that franchising would bring us back. Then, I think it was on the first day we were here, we went and got it again.
It's different and tastes really good. I don't remember the name, we just went by memory.
nAts: It's next to the hotel for Masters and Champions. It's nearby. It's so far from where we are staying now.
Redgar: It's close to where we practice.
Have you been doing anything to bond while staying in Germany?
Redgar: It's the wish to win. It's pushing us to talk to each other more and evolve our communication in and out of the game. Our performance coach is helping us a lot with that as well. We are becoming a much stronger team. Right now we can really talk about our problems. When you have a new roster it's hard to speak at the beginning, but right now it's ok.
We went to an escape room, although [Dom "soulcas" Sulcas] was sick. We weren't able to go as a full team, but we're going to go again.
What kind of escape room was it?
Redgar: It was a mystery. We had to stop an organization from destroying the world. We escaped and got through it faster than the other group. We split into two groups. It was players and management and we beat them by three seconds.
(Redgar became known for bringing a bunch of snacks and sweets to share at Champions. His favorite Russian sweet is a cranberry covered in powdered icing or sugar and his favorite snack in Berlin is Toffifee, a chocolate and caramel candy.)
What's something you've learned about each other, or one of your other teammates, during this time?
nAts: (Laughs). It's better if he answers because he's living with them in the other apartment. I'm living with our coach and manager.
Redgar: Well what did you find out about our coach and manager?
nAts: I mean, they're pretty quiet people! I thought it was going to be the same. We go back to our apartment and we each go to our rooms. I'm coming home late, at 11, so I'm going to sleep almost instantly.
I feel like I have gotten to know them, though. Except one. I don't know anything about what our performance coach, [Tanner "7Teen" Curtis], does in his apartment.
Redgar: I found out that [Elias "Jamppi" Olkkonen] is really clean. He likes it when everything is clean and nice. He likes to clean.
Sometimes we watch something on TV, but usually we go and chill in our own rooms.
What do you like to do when you take a break from playing Valorant?
Redgar: I like to play other games, maybe just watching other Valorant teams play without thinking about the strategy.
But, I'm not trying to think about Valorant much on my days off.
nAts: I'm just not thinking about Valorant at all on my day off. I'm just in my room. Maybe I'll go out for food.
On my day off I'm reading, washing my clothes, talking to my girlfriend and parents, and chilling. It's hard to find the time to talk to my family, with the time difference and practice schedule, so I don't get to talk to them much.
The most important thing is to not think about Valorant. Then it'd be too much.
What do you do first when you go home during the off-season?
nAts: Spend time with my parents, brothers, girlfriend, and my cat. My cat is waiting for me the entire time while I'm gone.
Who do you go to first when you get home?
nAts: I can't say that because they are going to look at me differently! That's why I'll say that my parents, girlfriend, brothers, and cat are all on the same level. But I hope they don't read that.
Redgar: It's the same for me. I like to see my family and friends.
What are some of your favorite foods you like to eat while at home or in Berlin?
nAts: I like the food my mom cooks. We have traditional food and my mom knows how to make it great. We have pasta with meat and some meat soup. It's like vegetables and other stuff cooked in chicken broth.
Redgar: I love Asian food. I found a place in Berlin called Mizu Ramen. I wasn't surprised, but it was delicious. I like a lot of food and there are a lot of options.
If there is one place you'd recommend people visit – in Berlin or your hometown – where would you recommend?
Redgar: In Berlin, if you want good Kebab, go to Hakiki.*
Is that the place you went to on your first day there?
nAts: No, it's different.
What makes you like kebab so much?
nAts: It's hard to find a good kebab at home! We have a lot of Turkish kebabs. It's a lot of shawarma.
Is there a place you really want to visit while in Berlin?
Redgar: I'm not really here for a visit. I'm here for the goal. I like Japan, there are a lot of places I want to go in Tokyo (laughs).
nAts: We came here to play. I would be happy to visit some more parks, because I've only seen one. I've been enjoying the architecture while walking around. I hope we have time to see more.
Redgar: We just like to press W and walk around.
Writer // Aron Garst
Graphics // Felipe Braga