Battle of the Brit Bosses in Birmingham! We interview OG Bonkers and Falcons Grant ahead of their big ESL One match-up

Falcons Grant and OG Bonkers at ESL One Birmingham 2024

Two teams at ESL One Birmingham 2024 with UK staff – OG and Falcons – are going head-to-head in the lower bracket final. We caught up with two managers – Grant Rousseau of Falcons and Bonkers of OG – ahead of the match.

Bonkers, on his pro gambling past, Ari being a ‘super nerd’, UK home crowd support – and the Large Hadron Collider

Allen ‘Bonkers’ Cook, OG General Manager for Dota 2

“[Ari and I are feeling the home support] There’s section 13 in the audience which is a hard core of OG fans. In general, OG fan or not, I think people are supportive of Ari. You can have the noise cancelling headset on stage, but you notice a different kind of cheer when the camera focuses on Ari. It’s nice, I’m pleased it’s that way and we have someone to cheer.

There aren’t many UK players in Dota 2, it’s been a barren spell in Dota. 

Maybe UK players [aren’t very good at teamwork!], I’m not sure. It’s not through lack of playerbase, we do play it, we’re very opinionated on it but we’re also pretty bad at it in general! 

Another UK guy, Matthew Chadwick, has a PhD in particle physics and he worked on the Large Hadron Collider, he’s worked with OG on a contract basis. He helped me do the coding and helps provide the analysis side, and helps us visualise that well. I normally do the coding behind the booth, but our coach usually links the chain between my papers and that.

So I’m not really doing a coaching role here at ESL One Birmingham, but I’m not really trying to because I think it would be disrespectful if I said I have a coaching job to do. I say a couple of things every now and then, and I only say something if I genuinely think it’s worth saying. Our coaching is still doing prep with the players before the games.

On his past and early LANs

I worked as a professional gambler. It was maths, Excel spreadsheets, I played Dota as a hobby. Given how we looked at and analysed football, I thought we could do things with a Dota team. I worked with Ad Finem as an analyst at the Boston Major in 2016. It was rare teams would employ analysts.

So at that point I became a manager and did analysis on the side. Realistically, my role has gone way more onto the manager side, but I still do the papers. 

“Ari is receptive to the papers and does the drafts for us now. He is a mega nerd! He got eight A stars at GCSE, he’s sickeningly intelligent (laughs).”

Bonkers, OG

Quite often players are limited on their learning because they don’t know what they want to learn, almost. But Ari is very good at coming up with, ‘can you show me this’, what a team does with a certain hero etc. We can visualise it for him, but it takes someone to understand what they want to see. 

On my past, my first LAN was Insomnia 6 or something like that in the early 2000s. I played Team Fortress Classic for a few teams, then I played Natural Selection 2.

I started playing Dota myself around 2014. I got swept up when Alliance won TI3.

I didn’t even like Dota when I first played it! It was only because my friends were playing it. And I said, ‘can we play something else’. Eventually you put 400 hours into it and start to learn, then you have 20,000 hours in it and you still don’t know what’s going on!

On his name, Bonkers

I think I was watching James Wade walk out on the darts to the Dizzee Rascal ‘Bonkers’ song and I thought, I like that. The name was not supposed to stick! It’s pretty weird to be a 44-year-old man called Bonkers walking around a LAN!

On his coach not making it to Birmingham

It’s a shame our coach Misha couldn’t be here. OG didn’t qualify for this event but we replaced 1win,.

Some teams are unhappy we’re here [at ESL One Birmingham] because we’re threatening some teams in there and racking up EPT points. So it looks like we’re on our way to securing a place at the Riyadh Masters/Esports World Cup.

‘The Group Stage Was The Craziest Thing I’ve Seen!’ – Falcons manager at ESL One Birmingham

Grant Rousseau, Global Director of Esports and European Director of Operations for Team Falcons

We’re three matches away from the trophy. It’s an interesting event for the neutral, because everyone is beating everyone. The group stages were the craziest thing I’ve seen.

We won the last two majors, we came second in Elite League, we’re in the in-form team on paper, then Tundra turned up and played well. I’m confident but this tournament is so weird, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

We got on stage at 9.30pm on Friday, there were long matches before us, there was a three to four hour match before us. I was amazed to see how many people there were in the crowd.

Bonkers has helped me out a lot with Dota. When I was starting research into entering Dota, I reached out to him and others at OG, so massive credit to him helping support us getting into the ecosystem. So it’s a shame we have to play each other because they’ve been really good to me and Falcons. But we have to try and win it! 

“ESL One Birmingham has been really impressive – the stage setup is unbelievable. They were testing new screen setups and lighting. The players and manager said it’s the best setup they’ve seen in a long time, in terms of the stage setup.” 

Grant Rousseau, Falcons

We really want to win because this event feels so important, it’s right next to the Riyadh Masters.

I want to win because I’ve never had a chance at a major event in the UK, so I’m begging to the players that we win! 

Our guys are absolutely killing it for us right now in terms of the Falcons brand in Dota, so long may it continue. I’m now converted [from League of Legends] to Dota.

[On going up against UK player Ari] I think I might lose my job if I say I don’t want to win! (laughs)

I hope if we win, we could play against BetBoom and not have the crowd against us!

See more ESL One Birmingham 2024 content on Esports News UK here

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