Medal Winning Indian Dota 2 Team Locks Horns With ESFI
Moin "NO_Chanc3" Ejaz the captain of India’s Commonwealth Bronze Medal Winning Dota 2 team has made several allegations against the Esports Federation of India (ESFI), accusing the esports body of blatant lies. The player raised concerns about the effect of ESFI on the team’s chances at upcoming international tournaments. Ejaz believed that its policies will prevent the best Indian Dota 2 team from representing the country in events such as the International Esports Federation (IESF) World Esports Championship (WEC) 2022 and the Asian Games 2022.
AFK Gaming reached out to Ejaz and the rest of the Dota 2 team to understand the players’ concerns about ESFI, the challenges they have faced so far at the behest of ESFI, and why the team does not want the federation to be the official organization in charge of all esports matters in India.
Breaking down ESFI vs Indian Bronze Medal Winning Dota 2 team
Ejaz makes his initial allegations
In 2022, ESFI has only hosted a single qualifier tournament for selecting the Indian representative for Dota 2 tournaments, originally for the Asian Games 2022. But following the postponement of the tournament to 2023, ESFI selected the same roster to represent the country in the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham, England.
The roster went on to win a bronze medal in the demonstration event and returned home with a heroes’ welcome.
However, all was not well behind the scenes. This came to light when Ejaz made a public post on his social media handle, raising concerns that the best Indian team might not be able to represent the country at the upcoming IESF World Esports Championship 2022 in Bali, Indonesia.
He claimed that ESFI was forcing the Indian Dota 2 team to play this tournament with the same roster that had secured a bronze medal in the recently concluded Commonwealth Esports Championships 2022: Open Event. Moreover, NO_Chanc3 also alleged that the ESFI was forcing them to stick with the same roster for the Asian Games 2022 which is scheduled to take place only in September 2023.
AFK Gaming reached out to ESFI for their response on the matter. In a release, shared with us through email, ESFI claimed that it was necessary to submit rosters for the Asian Games in advance. The federation claims that it submitted this information in April 2022 (before the games were postponed to September 2023).
According to ESFI, despite the event being postponed to 2023, the names of the participating members could not be changed unless it was “unavoidable and subject to necessary process & approvals from the respective authorities.”
ESFI claimed that qualifiers were held, and the team consisting of the below mentioned five players won it and would represent India in multiple Dota 2 tournaments.
Krish "Moon" Gupta
Abhishek "Abh1" Yadav
Ketan "Evil-Ash" Goyal
Moin "NO_Chanc3" Ejaz
Shubham "madness" Goli
Darshan "A35" Bata (substitute)
However, for the Commonwealth Esports Championship 2022, the team requested that Krish Gupta be replaced by a fresh player - Vishal “HBK” Vernekar.
After ESFI granted this request, NO Chanc3 confirmed through email that this slightly altered lineup will participate at both Commonwealth Esports Championship 2022 and IESF World Esports Championship 2022. However, after earning a Bronze Medal in the former with this lineup, ESFI stated that it was a “shock” when NO Chanc3 requested another roster change ahead of the latter, citing that the new squad would be a better one and that he could not play with the existing player(s).
The organization also stated that it received a complaint from one of the team members alleging that he was being victimized and that Ejaz was engaging in “politics.”
NO-Chanc3’s response to ESFI’s statement
In a call with AFK Gaming, Ejaz explained that ESFI’s approach to selecting teams was not an ideal one while choosing the best roster, because patches may change, players may lose form, etc. He also explained that this was demotivating for other aspiring Indian Dota 2 players since they simply will not have anything to work towards for one year.
“After we qualified for the Commonwealth Games 2022, when they were talking to a news channel, they just said that the same team is going to participate in Bali (IESF World Esports Championship 2022) and all other upcoming tournaments until the Asian Games 2022 as well,” said Ejaz. “Even we didn’t know that this was the case at that time.”
“When we qualified for the Commonwealth Games with Vishal (Vishal “HBK” Vernekar), we didn’t know. They didn’t tell us that we will have to be playing with the same roster in all tournaments. They never mentioned it,” he said. “So when the next tournament came around, this Bali one, we said that we were going to have a roster change for this tournament. We were replacing Vishal with ZxC (Akshay “ZxC” Dhodi).”
Ejaz alleged that ESFI responded to this by calling the team and lambasting them. “They were saying stuff like: ‘you have no right, you have no power to change the player, you should have discussed this with us’. Then he started giving me cricket and hockey rules, claiming that it was the government policy that you had to play the Asian Games with the same roster. All other events also you have to play with the same roster,” he added.
According to Ejaz, ESFI issued an ultimatum to the team asking to stick with the same roster that was submitted during the Asian Games qualifiers, failing which the team would be asked to forfeit all the tournaments till next year’s Asian Games.
Ejaz also addressed ESFI’s claim that indicated that a teammate of his had lodged a complaint with the body. He said that this situation occurred because he had informed Shubham “madness” Goli that the latter would be replaced with Krish Gupta (originally part of India's roster as a substitute) in the active lineup, if the team’s performances did not improve over time. Goli would instead only be a part of the team as a 6th player (substitute) for the IESF World Championship.
In a conversation with AFK Gaming, Goli explained that he was understandably disappointed with this decision and went to ESFI, urging the organization to host an Open Qualifier to enable him and other Indian Dota 2 players to fight for a spot in international tournaments like the IESF World Championship 2022 and the Asian Games 2022.
This disagreement could have been the complaint that ESFI referred to in its public statement refuting Ejaz’s claims.
However, despite requests from various top Dota 2 professionals in the country. ESFI continues to be stubborn with its decision of only selecting the same roster that won the Asia Games 2022 qualifiers (hosted in April 2022) to represent India in all tournaments up until the Asia Games 2022 (hosted in September 2023).
Ejaz stated that the team is ready to compete in the Asia Games 2022 with the same roster that qualified for the event. But it would like to change its lineup for other events taking place in the meanwhile (like the IESF World Championships 2022) moving forward.
He also requested ESFI to conduct separate open qualifiers for these events if roster changes are not going to be possible, to allow Dota 2 players to have a fair shot of representing India in international events.
Things turn ugly
Allegations of ESFI asking the team to forfeit the event
Following this, Ejaz also publicly posted another statement on his social media handle alleging that ESFI had asked the Dota 2 team to forfeit its Regional Qualifier for the Commonwealth Games 2022 since the organization was not sure that it had enough funds to send the Indian Dota 2 team to Birmingham, England.
Indian Dota 2 player Goli also shared a similar version of events in a conversation with AFK Gaming. “At the beginning, when we were playing in the regional qualifiers, before our first game, ESFI came into the voice channel and said something like ‘I think you guys shouldn’t play this Commonwealth Games because we don’t have funds to send you there and we don’t have sponsors for the trip',” he said.
In an email sent to us, ESFI denied that it had asked the Dota 2 team to forfeit its qualifier game. It explained that it had not accepted the invitation to participate in the tournament at that time, since it had failed to close down on a sponsor and hence technically couldn’t forfeit it. “ESFI also explained to the team that if ESFI confirms its participation and the team plays & wins the qualifiers, but ESFI is not able to secure sponsorship, it will be a disaster for the players, country and ESFI,” said the organization in its release.
The organization stated that after considering “the underlying intent of giving the Asian Games team more exposure in international events & the excitement that the Dota team had”, it took a risk in confirming the participation of the Dota 2 team with the organizers. However, Ejaz alleged that ESFI only agreed to move forward with the qualifiers, after the players said they could find sponsors for their team by themselves.
Denying the sponsorship-related claims, ESFI stated that players were clearly informed (multiple times) that sponsorship was not their responsibility and they were instead asked to concentrate on the game. Players were just asked to connect ESFI with potential sponsors if they knew of any.
In response, Ejaz called this a “lie” and stated that “ESFI twisted their words.” He claimed that ESFI had given the responsibility of finding a sponsor to a friend of the team and asked this person to assure that he would be able to find a sponsor for the Dota 2 team, before the roster competed in the regional qualifiers.
The team found sponsors for the event and forwarded them to ESFI. The organization directly negotiated with the sponsors, but the deal fell through. In a conversation with AFK Gaming, Ejaz and the rest of the players claimed that this may have occurred since ESFI allegedly asked for five times the initial estimated expenses (~INR 10 Lakh) that were shared with the players. “Of course, they’re going to run. And then they started acting like they’re doing a big favor by sending us to Birmingham,” he said.
Visas and local travel yet to be reimbursed
Despite things going south, ESFI managed to find sponsors that allowed the Indian Dota 2 team to travel to Birmingham and make history. However, even with the sponsorship in place, the Indian players were forced to shell out a significant amount of money for VISAs and local travel to actually compete at the Commonwealth Esports Championship 2022.
The team had to pay out of its pocket for visas, insurance, and local travel to New Delhi from where the tickets to Birmingham were booked. Some players told AFK Gaming that they were forced to spend over INR 20 Thousand for these expenses.
In response, ESFI pointed out that the organization had only committed to providing the Dota 2 players with International air tickets and lodging at the host city, but pointed out that it was going to reimburse the players for their visa and insurance expenses and asked the players to submit invoices for the same. The players are yet to receive this compensation at the time of writing.
These actions by ESFI have led to a mistrust of the organization amongst the Indian esports community. Important stakeholders including S8UL Esports co-owner Animesh "Thug" Agarwal, S8UL Esports manager Sid Joshi, and Skyesports CEO Shiva Nandy called out the organization for its handling of the situation, while many others questioned its authenticity.
The organization has not been recognized by the Indian Olympic Association as the official governing body for all esports matters in the country. But why is it handling all matters concerning the selection and handling of teams for major events like the Asian Games 2022, the IESF World Championship, or the Commonwealth Games 2022?
In an interview with AFK Gaming in 2018, Lokesh Suji revealed that the ESFI became the official representative of Indian esports in the International Esports Federation (IESF) by securing membership in the organization. So, ESFI is authorized to pick teams that are to represent the country at the IESF World Championships 2022.
The IESF is partnered with the Commonwealth Games and is therefore responsible for hosting the esports tournaments at this event. Hence, by default, ESFI also got to exercise its power for the Commonwealth Esports Championships 2022.
Notably, the ESFI has also been recognized by the Asian Esports Federation (AESF) as the official esports representative of India, despite obvious signs of conflict of interest.
The AESF has the authority to choose the National Esports Federation which conducts the qualifiers for the Asian Games.
Lokesh Suji is the Director of the Esports Federation of India (ESFI)
Lokesh Suji is also the Vice President of the Asian Esports Federation (AESF)
The AESF chose ESFI to conduct the qualifiers for the Indian region for the Asian Games.
With the absence of an officially recognized governing body of esports within India, ESFI will continue to be responsible for selecting and managing teams that represent the country at international sporting events.