Some SEA players 'stopped growing' after being paid 'big salaries': Mushi

Legendary Dota 2 midplayer Chai "Mushi" Yee Fung finally made the switch to coaching in mid 2021 as part of his esports career plan.

He recently shared his thoughts and experience as a new coach with Yahoo Esports SEA, touching on the journey and what he had learnt so far in the first part of the interview.

Currently coaching Boom Esports, Mushi has successfully led the team to qualify for the upcoming Arlington Major.

In the second part of our sit down with the legend, we go behind the scenes on how he ended up as a coach for TNC and Boom, and how he finds life in the Philippines away from his home country of Malaysia.

After leaving Team SMG, you joined TNC. Did they approach you then or did you approach them? Did you also receive other offers outside of TNC?

There were not many offers then, because it was already the middle of the season and many teams had completed their line-ups. At that time, I used to have regular chats with Tims (Filipino pro Timothy "Tims" Randrup) and I would consider our relationship to be good.

TNC then were about to compete in (the Weplay) Animajor, and they gave me a chance to help out.

I think I was mostly an analyst then because we had not yet worked together and I was mostly analysing the team and their opponents, as well as giving some opinions on how the team could perform better.

I did not interfere with their team’s operations and conditioning that much.

I was doing it online then, and that was not ideal. There are only that many things you could do when you are online and not on-ground with the team.

If you are not near the team, a lot of things are out of your control.

After the Animajor, TNC made the decision to hire you as a coach. I think you are aware of what happened in the TI10 qualifiers (TNC was leading the series versus Fnatic 2-0, and they got reverse swept and lost 3-2). What were you and the team feeling then?

It was a little tough to accept that fact and we needed one to two days to adjust our emotions.

There was nothing much to say about that final, with us leading 2-0 and getting reverse swept like that, meant that we had a long way to go and a lot of things we needed to work on.

I am confident that the experience was a big boost for myself and the team because the harder you fall, the higher you will rise.

After the conclusion of the TI10 qualifiers, TNC was rumoured to rebuild the team with you as the coach. It was unclear what happened after – suddenly, everything fell apart for them. What actually happened?

As a coach, I would very much like to work with players that I could believe in, as well as players that could lift trophies.

All this while, TNC were helmed by Tims, Gabbi (Kim "Gabbi" Santos) and Armel (Armel "Armel" Tabios), and all three of them had decided that they will not be staying in TNC.

There were a lot of negotiations and talks but at the end of the day, they decided to go their separate ways.

At that time, Tims had plans to play with Yopaj (Erin "Yopaj" Ferrer) in TNC but again, the negotiations did not succeed.

As a result, Yopaj moved to BOOM and Tims followed suit. TNC still wanted to reform the team but I personally would very much prefer working with players I am familiar with.

It is very hard and tiring to coach a team of new players. I think the optimal setup is still a mixture between veterans and aspiring players.

So your decision to join BOOM was more to work with familiar players. What did the players think of it?

I had worked with Tims for a period of time and he understands my style very well.

Skem (Rolen "skem" Ong) was also my previous teammate and we had always maintained a good relationship.

As for the others, they were not too familiar with me since we have no prior relationship together and did not give too many comments on the decision of my hiring.

BOOM Esports' coach Mushi talking to the team. (Photo: BOOM Esports)
BOOM Esports' coach Mushi talking to the team. (Photo: BOOM Esports) (Boom Esports)

Let’s go back to the start of the 2021-2022 season. It was quite well known that BOOM were struggling to find a carry then. I think a lot of tryouts were being held and at the end, the team went with Tino (Justine "Tino" Grimaldo). Could you share with us what happened?

At that time, it was a little too late to start changing roster and there were not a lot of amazing carry players that we could choose from.

My opinion of Tino then was also quite unclear but his attitude is good and his gameplay is alright.

So we asked him to come try with us and we ended up playing with him for some time. Despite Tino’s amazing personality and will to learn, everybody felt that Tino may not be as aligned with us in terms of game plan.

Hence, we decided to get Jackky (Souliya "JaCkky" Khoomphetsavong) as our carry. Jackky’s gameplay is a lot more suited to ours.

Who else did you consider apart from Jackky?

There were a few options at that time.

There were rumours that Gabbi had left Talon and 23savage (Nuengnara "23savage" Teeramahanon) had been removed from T1.

We did consider them as well but our decision in the end was that Jackky was a better fit personality wise.

Now that the team is composed of people from so many different countries, how is communication like in the team? Are there any difficulties?

Everybody does speak English and I believe almost all SEA Dota players know basic English.

However, I do think that Jackky's and my English needs a bit more work.

After the team picked up Jackky, BOOM looked incredible. You guys ended up winning Gamers Galaxy and the team went undefeated for several months. Since then, the team’s dominance has waned slightly and the team started losing a few matches here and there. What happened?

We actually discussed this after we lost at the ESL One Stockholm Major.

I told the team that between Gamers Galaxy and ESL One Stockholm, a lot of teams have improved and our team had stagnated.

This is what I told them. It is related to players’ mentality and attitude towards the game.

After a disappointing finish in Stockholm, the team turned it around in DPC SEA Tour 3 and qualified first for the Arlington Major. How do you feel about the win?

I definitely feel great being the first team to qualify to the Major and even happier that we finished in first place this season.

We have been underperforming for quite some time.

It secured us valuable points to receive a direct invite to TI, and that is priceless.

What do you think contributed to your team's success the most to this turnaround?

I think over the past couple of months, we have been concerned about too many things causing us to not be ourselves and underperform.

It is great that the team has such a quick turnaround after an open talk with them, which allowed us to have a clearer direction and objective.

How does it feel to be in the Philippines from a lifestyle, food, infrastructure perspective?

The biggest problem in the Philippines is that our electricity and internet keeps cutting off randomly, causing us to not be able to train properly and compete in tournaments normally.

Lifestyle and food-wise is no problem for me since every country has their own delicacies.

The BOOM team (Photo: BOOM Esports)
The BOOM team (Photo: BOOM Esports) (Boom Esports)

So this Internet issue doesn’t happen only during official games but during non-tournament days too?

Yeah, it has happened several times now and at times, we are not able to train for one or two days.

Have you guys not thought about moving to a more major city like Manila (BOOM's Philippines bootcamp is in Pampanga)?

There were thoughts about it and recently, we rented Team Secret’s bootcamp in Manila, so that we are able to train and compete in peace.

We were also near the end of the season so we stopped entertaining that thought.

It is July now and if we do qualify for TI, there is a high chance we will be moving around quite a lot as well. So, there's no need for now to rent a bootcamp for a full year.

We are now in Indonesia to process our US visas. The training facility in Indonesia is quite stable.

How is the visa qualifier going?

There are some problems in regards to the visa to go to the US at the moment, but I believe that it will be fixed soon.

This DPC SEA Tour 3 hosts a lot of new teams like Talon and RSG. Some of these players are rather new but overall, SEA has historically never been that great at nurturing new players. New players from SEA has never properly been able to be world beaters compared to other regions like Europe and CIS. Why do you think the progress of SEA new-blood is slower in comparison to these other regions?

There are two points I would like to mention. Firstly, it is due to our culture.

The SEA culture here is a bit more messy, our mental game isn’t too strong and our attitude isn’t too good.

Some players are cocky but some players are also lazy. Perhaps some players begin stagnating after achieving certain goals and do not want to leave their comfort zone.

As a normal player in Southeast Asia, and when some of them got invited into the big teams, they got paid a big salary, they stopped growing and did not continually fight for the bigger goal.

Secondly, it is also due to guidance.

There has never been a team from SEA that has won TI but Europe has finished at the top a lot. There are a lot of examples and mentors that players could follow. There are many great captains and coaches in Europe who could nurture these new players and give them a good direction.

However, in Southeast Asia, there is no one here with vast experience who could guide the younger players in the right direction.

What do you think about Talon and RSG?

Their performance recently has indeed been quite good.

I think part of the reason is their coaches have been very helpful towards the team. Of course, it is not all because of their coaches but that these coaches bring exponential increments to these teams and players.

It is tough for the players to ensure their team members stay motivated every day and are in a good condition.

I think that their coach has done a very good job conditioning the players mentally and emotionally to continue learning everyday.

Who do you think are the biggest challenges in Arlington Major?

I have no thoughts on challenges.

I just want my team to be curious about their opponents and aim to play our best games in this tournament.

If you missed part 1, check out what Mushi had to say about his coaching journey thus far.

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