TEAM LIQUID COME CALLING
By November of 2016, GH was a stand-in for Team Liquid, who had just narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Boston Major with their previous line-up, and Gh put his education on hold to seize the opportunity. His impact was instantaneous and he gelled immediately with Liquid’s mid-laner Miracle.
“I really liked the new line-up with Miracle, I was a fan of his. We got on instantly, we’re both Arabs so we speak the same language and we just naturally became friends,” says Maroun.
“It was hard for me to make the move at first because everyone on the team was so talented. Kuroky really helped me with that, he told me not to stress myself or to feel pressure, he told me just to play, to keep doing what I’d been doing, and I’ve been doing just that ever since.” Just a few weeks after GH’s addition Team Liquid flew to Sweden and won DreamLeague Season 6 collecting $90,000, a perfect end to what could have been a disappointing season.
At the start of 2017 the team secured another LAN victory at Starladder i-League Season 3 in China but eventually hit a wall in April of this year at DAC 2017, where they were knocked out early on. The honeymoon period was over, but Maroun was quick to get back on his feet. He remarked, “I do take losses badly but I try to learn from them. A guy can’t lose and be happy about it. I needed one day or two to accept our result at DAC and move on.”
A resurgence at the Kiev Major where GH and Team Liquid placed Top-8 would then lead to a phenomenal run across 3 continents. 1st place at Starladder Invitational 2 in Shanghai, led to another 1st place at EPICENTER 2017 in Moscow and one more 1st place at DreamLeague in Atlanta.
The secret to success?
“We just took it one tournament at a time,” says Maroun. “If you have to worry about future tournaments or previous tournaments, or defeats — if you pressure yourself to have some certain placement — you will be pressured the whole tournament. Those were the wise words given by our captain Kuroky and I feel like that is the way to go. If you go into a tournament thinking ‘I need to get Top-1 or 2 or 3,’ then the pressure starts building up right from that moment.”
That said, no tournament comes with more pressure than The International, an annual event in Seattle hosted and organized by Valve themselves, and Team Liquid entered this year’s TI in fantastic shape. While in their group stage Team Liquid finished in 1st place, come the playoffs they suffered an unexpected defeat to Chinese team Invictus Gaming in the very first round.
Dota fans had seen it before, teams stumbling and crumbling when push comes to shove at The International. Many top teams had faltered in the past at the illustrious event and following that defeat TL were just one loss away from becoming another TI disappointment. One more defeat and they were history, but that wasn’t Team Liquid’s destiny.
Their first opponent in the lower-bracket was Team Secret and when Team Liquid went 1-0 down it looked like it really was all over. However, Liquid did not surrender and GH refused to lose. Liquid turned the series around to win 2-1 and began their historic run in the lower-bracket.
The incredible run culminated in a 1st place at The International 7 with Liquid defying the odds to win six matches back-to-back to claim the record-breaking $10.8 million. GH was now a world champion and, living up to his Internet namesake, a God.
A WORLD CHAMPION BUT AN UNCHANGED LIFESTYLE
GH returned to Lebanon after winning TI7 to be welcomed by a crowd of 300 people, a mixture of family, friends, gamers from the netcafe and simply lovers of Dota. However, despite becoming a world champion not much has changed says Maroun.
GH is recognized on the street more than before and the number of “non-believers” as he calls them has dropped, but in terms of his lifestyle and friendships it’s stayed very much the same.
“I’ve had the same group of six friends since primary school,” says Maroun. “They’re my closest friends, some of them are Dota players, some of them aren’t. I do everything with them. We go for road trips, go to bars for a few drinks and a chat, and play sports — even football which I’m not very good at. They’ll still bring me along though to not let me down [laughs].”
But what did the TI7 world champion do after coming home?
“I just sat in my bed and said to myself no more Dota for a couple of weeks,” says Maroun. “Then after 1 or 2 days I was like ‘what do i do now?’, so... I just went back to the netcafe and played Dota on the 3rd day (laughs).”
He may be a world champion but outside of the game GH hasn’t changed. He achieved in 9 months what many players have spent 5, 6 or even 7 years trying to achieve, but you wouldn't know that if you passed him on the street. GH is a millionaire who still keeps the same childhood friends, still lives in the same house and still takes the short walk to his local netcafe to play Dota surrounded by other gamers, on a PC which he is proud to say he made himself.