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Having first arrived on the scene in TK 2020, Team Falcons have become one of the more controversial organizations in the esports scene. Ditching their French-focused Counter-Strike squad after their failure to qualify for the Paris Major, they aimed to create a “superteam” heading into the CS2 era. While they did get some pieces of the puzzle, high-profile rejections showed the early limitations of their approach.

Meanwhile, their other esports projects are much less ambitious in scope, but the ownership-related controversies swirling around the org have reached them as well in the community.

Here is everything you need to know about Falcons, their background, their ambitions, and what they have achieved so far.

Who are The Falcons and what esports teams do they have?

Founded in late 2017 by former FIFA esports player and 2018 FIFA world champion Mossad “Msdossary” Aldossary, Team Falcons is a Saudi Arabian professional esports organization that has been attracting a lot of headlines and controversies in recent years.

Team Falcons field teams and players in a variety of esports, from Valorant to Rocket League and Dota and PUBG, and they are rapidly expanding their footprint heading into 2024. Their initial Dota 2 roster (featuring skiter, Malr1ne, ATF, Cr1t-, and Sneyking) was universally panned as “odd” and “weird” by the community, but they punched above their weight with a 5-6th place finish at the Kuala Lumpur Major late last year. In January, they added Aui_2000 as their coach.

Ultimately, their headline-grabbing project has been their revamped Counter-Strike project, where they aimed to establish a so-called superteam heading into the early CS2 days, bringing on board five-time Major-winning coach zonic to helm the project. However, this isn’t the first time they have been involved with the space, even if they unceremoniously binned their underachieving French squad heading into the new era of CS esports.

They are not to be confused with the Atlanta Falcons, a North American football team with its fair share of controversies.

Team Falcons in CS:GO – the French connection

After fielding Saudi squads in the occasional local showmatch, Team Falcons entered mainstream CS:GO esports in a serious way in February 2022, signing the former Akimbo roster after their impressive run at ESL Challenger League’s fortieth season. The team, despite multiple roster moves, continued to languish in the lower tiers of the game, with the first real injection of star power coming in preparation for the final CS:GO Major in Paris, which would have been a real coup to qualify for with their primarily French squad.

Falcons’ HLTV ranking over time heading into 2024.

To booster their efforts, Falcons brought in veteran AWPer Kenny ”kennyS” Schrub, but they fell short in the European RMR decider, losing to BIG – even if it would have been quite a stretch to get past Cloud9 and FaZe for a spot in the Major. A short-lived international squad followed,

Enter the superteam, the big money, and the big controversy.

Falcons’ CS2 superteam – who is in and who is out?

Clearly, not qualifying for big events and not winning important games and not being one of the undisputed best teams in the Counter-Strike team was not going to be acceptable for the new-look Falcons org, and they made significant statements in the media about their desire to assemble the greatest team the world has ever seen for CS2 competitions.

They put their money (and oh boy, do they have a lot of that) where their mouth is and poached zonic straight after his Major-winning run with Team Vitality, the fifth in his career after the quintuple he racked up with Astralis. Not only that, but his fabled colleague, Lars Robl, Vitality’s head of performance, also followed him out the door. At that point, Magisk’s signing, a veteran of all but one of these campaigns, seemed like a foregone conclusion, and he was indeed announced soon after in what was shaping up to be a monstrous roster.

Then, the rest of the planned pieces didn’t materialize on the chessboard.

Reports suggested that titans of the game like NiKo, Twistzzz and m0NESY were expected to join the squad, but none of these moves panned out. NiKo’s signing was even falsely reported by multiple news organizations as a done deal, but it turned out to be a high-profile setback for the org. Soon after, Twistzz, who has moved back from FaZe to Team Liquid, said that “it’s morals” and “I just don't want to be affiliated with that stuff at all.” Other elite players also seem to have snubbed the org, who ended up with the following, decidedly mid roster essentially made up of the ENCE core:

Marco 'Snappi' Pfeiffer – ENCE’s 32-year-old in-game leader is a fellow Dane to count on for zonic, but it remains to be seen how much he has left in the tank. While he has never been about individual performances, much like a gla1ve or a karrigan, it has to be said that he has turned out to be quite a late-bloomer and successfully navigated multiple roster iterations to deep playoff runs in an underdog team. Falcons will be a very different challenge.

  • Álvaro 'SunPayus' García – Another ENCE expat, the Spaniard first made a name for himself on Movistar Riders, and he finished as high as #6 on last year’s HLTV rankings wielding the AWP. A shrewd operator with the big green, but nevertheless a downgrade from zonic’s previous prodigies: dev1ce and ZywOo.
  • Mohammad 'BOROS' Malhas – Formerly of Monte, it remains to be seen whether the 19-year-old Jordanian is a pickup for the future, or a temporary placeholder until a bigger name finally says yes to the org. His numbers have been erratic so far, but his existing experience playing on an international team should bode well for him.
  • Pavle 'Maden' Bošković – The 25-year-old player from Montenegro was another part of the ENCE puzzle, appearing on his seventh team after FPX, GODSENT, SMASH, BLUEJAYS, and (wrecking the allcaps combo) Akopalipsa.
  • Emil 'Magisk' Reif – The Danish veteran of questionable facial hair choices, Magisk was a key part of Astralis’ all-conquering lineup and a strong member of Team Vitality’s international roster. This is going to be his third adventure with zonic.

Having the majority of the ex-ENCE roster at their disposal has other implications, too. They essentially inherited the Finnish org’s ranking spots in many statistics, opening the door for invitations and qualifier spots. Falcons also forked out for Evil Geniuses’ abandoned partnership spots in ESL’s Louvre Agreement and BLAST’s Premier circuit, which was a somewhat surprising decision seeing how Valve’s decree will essentially force both tournament organizers to dismantle these primarily invite-only circuits in 2025, meaning they paid top dollar for a one-year spotlight.

In fact, it’s the very success of squads like ENCE that stands in contrast with the many failures of so-called superteams, juggernauts and colossuses (erm, colossi?) in the Counter-Strike place, as history has shown that assembling an expensive team of stars often yields limited results in this game.

But why exactly do so many players and fans feel icky about Team Falcons’ project? Well, it all comes down to the ownership and the financing of the org.

Ownership controversies around Team Falcons: conflicts of interest galore?

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has long been involved in getting ownership stakes in big international companies and promoting large sporting events, from Formula One to the LIV Golf International Series, successfully bringing many top-tier competitions to the country for spectacular events.

The nation’s questionable human rights record and a national fund’s direct involvement in these competitions already make many, as Twistzz put it, an issue of “morals.” From a sporting perspective, there’s an added controversy here: while the fund is busy courting tournament organizers and events, they are also simultaneously investing in (or outright buying) teams and competitors.

With the ESL-FACEIT group, the biggest tournament organizers in Counter-Strike esports, now owned by the Riyadh-based Savvy Gaming Group, and BLAST also regularly bringing events in the region, not to mention countless new initiatives, the notion that the same investment fund would bankroll teams raises serious concerns about competitive integrity (and how anyone can compete with a nation-bankrolled sovereign wealth fund in the marketplace). In the traditional sporting world, cost caps and financial fair play regulations struggle to incorporate the idea that the same nation’s biggest companies just happen to write massive checks for marketing deals, funneling money into the club or the organization in a similar way.

Now, all this has arrived in esports, with the parade of controversies one would expect.  This was why it was critically important in the eyes of the community that Team Falcons’ CEO properly addressed concerns about their relationship with the Fund, and they had the opportunity to do just that in November 2023 on the HLTV Confirmed show.

You can judge for yourself based on the footage, but the general reception of this interview has been overwhelmingly negative, and the justification was deemed flimsy at best. Many gamers see Falcons as an indirect promotional vehicle for the Saudi state, which doesn’t exactly make them want to root for them in big events – or, in the case of players like Twistzz, it makes them disinclined to sign for them, no matter how big the promised paycheck is.

Everything you need to know about Team Falcons, summarized

  • Team Falcons will undoubtedly remain a key player in CS2 esports heading forward and will continue to mark out their territory in other games like Dota as well.
  • The org was founded in 2017 but had its growth spurt in 2023
  • Their massive financial clout and connections with the Saudi Public Investment Fund are a cause for controversy
  • Falcons are active in multiple esports like Counter-Strike, Dota, Rocket League, PUBG, and Valorant
  • They aimed to build a “superteam” for CS2 esports but were rejected by multiple elite players, so they settled for three ENCE players instead

That’s the story of the Falcons, at least as far as it’s been written so far. Check out the Bitsler blog for more on the biggest esports stories, and everything competitive gaming!

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