FalleN; Counter-Strike's Johan Cruyff
Two years ago, the footballing world lost one of its truest greats. Johan Cruyff is one of seven people to have won the Champions League as a player and a manager, and is credited by many as one of, if not the most influential person in football’s history. He was the creator of quite specific ideology of football, somewhat perfected by Pep Guardiola, that went on to inspire many after him. Cruyff created the well-famed Barcelona/Ajax style of ‘Total Football’ and was ridiculously successful. In fact, many at Barcelona respect him as the man who made the club the successful behemoth it has been for the last 10 years.
Aside from being a digression, we in Counter-Strike can learn to respect those who create teams from the ground up. And who, other than Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo, can possibly fit that profile?
Cruyff was so respected as a genuinely superb footballer, as a fantastic manager, and a thinker and philosopher within football. Similarly, FalleN has gained plaudits as a player, as a leader and influence within the Brazilian scene. That’s not to say FalleN is as dominant as a personality as Cruyff, but in my eyes, he’s the greatest player ever to play Counter-Strike - for more than just his performance in the server.
That said, what would be a Counter-Strike legend without legendary performances? In 2016, FalleN was deemed the second best player in the world for his level over those 12 months. Who was first? Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David; a player who FalleN found, nurtured and built his system around.
That’s not to take away from coldzera, a player who by all accounts has helped FalleN throughout his career with calling in-game; but without FalleN, coldzera might not have been the great of the game he’s turned out to be. FalleN saw his ability in late round situations, and built his side to maximise that skill.
Alas, we return to FalleN. In 2016, he had a negative K/D at one tournament in the entire year. That is unheard of from the leader of a tactical colossus such as the Brazilian side he led. He put all the pressure on himself as the AWP player, a role that is so patently important to a successful team, yet time and time again he proved himself an outrageously good sniper, even in tough spots.
The fact he was considered one of the most dangerous AWP players in the world whilst calling is testament to the enormous skill he possesses. Before and since him, there have been very few IGL’s who could possibly do what he did back in 2016; gla1ve is a player who is putting up ridiculous numbers for a leader whilst his team is successful - and also seemed to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on the Astralis team famous for choking, and is on his way to becoming one of the greats of Counter-Strike. chrisj draws similarities to the Brazilian due to his leadership and skill on the AWP, but is not putting up the raw numbers FalleN did.
One thing that I always consider when rating a player is how easy it would be to replace what they can do; that is to say, if you could get a slightly worse version who did many of the same things, you aren’t actually that valuable. To many, this is a really strange way of judging players, but to me it’s the optimal way. Take FalleN out of that 2016 LG side, and suddenly they aren’t a top three side. Take fer out, and you can probably get a slightly worse version (hello there, felps) and the performance of that team doesn’t suffer quite as much.
FalleN was a pioneer in this - at the time, NOBODY could do what FalleN did. Even now, I’m not sure anybody could put up the numbers as a primary AWPer that FalleN posted whilst calling for that side. That makes him obscenely valuable, and in my eyes, irreplaceable. That has to be considered when discussing the greatest of all time.
Whilst not strictly relevant to the discussion, it should be noted that FalleN has helped similar scenes to the one he has led, such as in Colombia. FalleN offered to help cover costs for the Colombian team Team Vault as they wanted to go to WESG. As a member of the community, he is invaluable.
What makes FalleN so good, however, is that he made Luminosity, SK Gaming and now MiBR from almost nothing. Everyone in Brazil has only good things to say about the man, and he truly led a scene which had only backing from Robin ‘flusha’ Ronnquist as a start up point. flusha, the unsung hero of Brazil, offered to help the team then known as KaBuM back in the days when they struggled for money. He did what FalleN did for Vault, and helped the Brazilian scene become the monster it is now.
It all came back to bite flusha in the nicest way possible, as LG became the best team in the world; ending Fnatic’s dominance over the world of Counter-Strike. But with that small donation, FalleN turned a small underdog into an international powerhouse - as the team’s leader, scout, AWPer and manager. Very few people could have come close to doing what he did to that team.
My final point is success. What is a greatest player discussion, without talk of success? Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo’s metaphorical trophy cabinet is full to the brim - has anyone ever mentioned he’s won two majors? Though he’s had a tough 2018 - individually, and at a team level, last year they won ESL Cologne, BLAST, EPICENTER, ECS S3, DreamHack Summer 2017, cs_summit and IEM Sydney. Not bad.
He came 2nd and then 6th in HLTV’s rankings of best players, which; given it doesn’t account for performance outside of the server, only success and rating; is damn impressive. s1mple might nowadays be the player everyone wants to be; hell, two years ago everyone wanted to be coldzera; but if you asked me right now who I thought the greatest CS:GO player of all time was?
I’d say it was Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo.
I hope some of you are starting to believe as well...