Ukrainian CS:GO star s1mple urges peace in a speech at IEM Katowice
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Ukrainian Counter-Strike: Global Offensive superstar Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev gave a speech to the crowd in the Spodek arena in Katowice, Poland, urging peace and solidarity during the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

During the opening ceremonies of the Intel Extreme Masters Katowice playoffs, the Natus Vincere players made a plea to the crowd, and to the fans at home, to understand that esports are not politics. This was the Ukrainian pro’s first public address since Russia’s President Vladimir Putin called for the invasion into the sovereign state of Ukraine.

“All of us want peace for Ukraine and for the whole world,” s1mple said. “All of us are scared. And all of us need to show an example this tournament for the whole world. We need to stay together as a unit, with our fans, with our friends, with everyone who’s going to watch this tournament. And we all need to stay humans first.”

S1mple’s team Na’Vi are based out of Kyiv, Ukraine and have an even split of Ukrainians and Russians, including coach Andrii “B1ad3” Horodenskyi. Four of the remaining six teams at IEM Katowice have Ukrainian and/or Russian players. S1mple’s speech seemed to get ahead of concerns that the crowd would not support the numerous Russian players and organizations, like Gambit Esports, in the playoffs.

“I don’t have a lot of words to say, but I want you to know that esports is out of politics,” s1mple said. “And all our players, players from different teams, and all of you have nothing to do with government decisions. My whole career, I played with Ukrainian players, I played with Russian players and I played with American players and all of them, great guys. And right now I stay with my friends, my real friends.”

Na’Vi will play their first match of the IEM Katowice playoffs during the semifinals at 9:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 26. The team placed first in Group B, to gain the bye directly to the semifinals. They await the winner of the match between and G2 Esports.

Coby Zucker is Upcomer's resident CS:GO writer. He's also played League of Legends at the collegiate level and is a frequent visitor in TFT Challenger Elo. He's a firm believer that Toronto should be the next big esports hub city.