The French revolution: Ferra talks reinventing Team Vitality ahead of the Winter Major
Team Vitality hold a special place in the hearts of Rocket League esports fans. Once the benchmark to be aspired towards, The Bees are the most decorated organisation in European RLCS history and have boasted the best talent in the world since they entered the scene in Season 5 (2018).
But the last 24 months have seen a huge shift come into play for Vitality, moving on from the cornerstones of their legacy and embarking on a new venture with some of the most exciting talents in the world.
Having not appeared on the RLCS main stage since losing the Season 8 World Championships Grand Final, the revolutionised roster spearheaded by Coach Victor "Ferra" Francal has now qualified for a Major LAN again and is now preparing for the buzz that comes with The Bees' backing.
We sat down with Ferra to discuss everything from Team Vitality's RLCS 22-23 Winter Major preparation and goals, the impact of French role models on the "new blood", transitioning from a player to a coach, and relishing this new project. "It's just the beginning"...
First off, it's the first time since Season X that Vitality has qualified for a major. How does it feel to have this prestigious org back on the main stage?
Great! I wasn't there the last time, so for the whole team, it's going to be a pretty new experience.
We have "Saizen" and "Radosin" who are going to be playing on LAN for the first time. It's already great to be there because it's important to get the guys to these stages and get as much experience as we can, and to get as much as we can from the event, but also use it to look at improvements.
Further on in the season, it's important to get stage experience, and get all of the nerves out of the way as soon as we can.
How's your preparation been so far?
It's been great, but it's also been a bit hard to prepare, after the regionals, because a lot of teams have stopped practising.
Pretty much the only teams left to practice against are the Major teams, all the others are either taking breaks or are on vacation, so it's a bit tougher than usual.
But, I guess it's much better that way. I don't think we would want to be on vacation. We're in San Diego and we're going to be preparing much more with much more intensity and trying to get in shape before the Major.
So, you come in off the back of three straight top-eight finishes, including one top-two placing in Europe. But what can we expect to see from Vitality on the main stage to catch up to the rest of Europe and tackle those international teams?
I think we had a very tough start to the season when we failed to qualify for the first regional. But then since then, we've improved a lot in terms of consistency, playing against teams that we think are weaker than ourselves, and we drop fewer games against weaker teams which is helpful at the beginning of the Splits.
We've improved a lot on that. We've improved a lot on consistency, applying what we are used to doing on scrims and in practice and with that we've been consistently reaching playoffs since we failed to qualify for the first one.
So there are good points, but also we do come in with slightly less momentum than some other teams like Team Liquid and Karmine Corp. We are aware though and know we can take the fight to them. They are still a step ahead right now, but I'm confident we can definitely go into the major and beat them because it's a LAN, it's going to be different, we've improved, and we consider ourselves to have underperformed in the last two tournaments. We think we can do better than that.
You mentioned that you've improved against teams that might not be as good as yourselves and are a step below, but you're coming into the tournament against probably the hardest group in the Major.
Are you looking forward to relishing these games against "better" teams? Or do you think this new format is flawed in its seeding?
The format is definitely not the greatest. Swiss into single elimination is a bit clearer and fairer, I think. But it's the same for every team anyway. We all play in the same tournament. It's the same for everyone. So we are not at a disadvantage here.
It's one of the hardest, yes, but I feel like it's not as hard as teams make it out to be, right? Because there are groups where there are at least two or three extremely strong teams, and I feel like our group is even. Anyone can win it.
It does make it harder as there is no specifically weak team in the group, but other than Karmine Corp, who are obviously the top dogs in EU, I don't feel like the others [Falcons and Dignitas] are on the same level as a lot of the other teams at the event. They are not title contenders yet.
So if we want to do good at the event, we have to get out of these groups. We are not scared.
You've got three really exciting matches. Obviously, there's the French derby against Karmine, the OG rivalry with Dignitas - even though you both moved on to very different teams than we have previously seen and Dignitas are NA now, but it's a huge fan rivalry nonetheless - and then anybody that plays Falcons is always up for an interesting game. Are you looking forward to these big matchups?
Yeah. Well, there is no game that we will be going into thinking we're going to win easily. That's definitely a thing because the group is going to be very close. Every team is very good. So yeah, every match is going to be very, very interesting with a lot at stake.
It's going to be hard, but it's going to be fun.
Is there any particular fixture that you're looking forward to the most?
Surprisingly, I don't think I'm looking forward to the Karmine Corp game much because we've played them the whole season.
So, I'd say pretty much any match except this one. The games against Falcons are going to be very interesting from our point of view because we are not used to facing teams from other regions. I'm really looking forward to seeing how we can fare against them.
This is going to be a completely different Vitality team than the rest of the world has seen for a long time. Since you came into Vitality, we have seen a huge transition for the team with Kaydop and Fairy Peak both being replaced.
How has this period been for you? What has it been like spearheading this new roster and building a new team?
It's a bit challenging obviously, because the game and the scene changes, right? It evolves. Absolutely. There is new blood all the time. The scene is getting younger and younger. There are new players coming in and some of the older ones, I mean, every dog has its day at some point. Every good thing must come to an end.
That's why we had two part ways with Kaydop and Fairy eventually, which was always going to happen at some point.
It was challenging to build a new team, especially with new blood that had no way near the experience as Kaydop and Fairy. But, that's also why I was here. I was confident I could actually bring the experience that we would need for the newer players.
And it is been fun. It's been difficult at times, yeah, frustrating sometimes when results don't go our way, but I feel like we are on a very good path right now. A very good dynamic. I'm thinking about how we continue building this project and propelling forward.
I feel that we are on track with our objectives and our expectations, and it's definitely just the start. It's only up from here.
This is the first time you've been a Coach too. How, how are you finding it? Because we know you as such a great player over the years as well, but how have you found that transition into being a coach?
It's very different from being a player. The pressure, attention, and expectations around you are not the same. You don't leave the games the same way, you don't have control. Sometimes you even have more pressure because you're not in control of the outcomes.
Being a player is good because you have pressure, you have a lot on your mind, you are controlling what you do and you have an impact on what's going to happen. Which is a bit different as a coach.
Instead, you are technically a spectator when the games kick off. You are behind the team but you don't have as much impact. You do have an impact, but it's indirect, right? It's a very different way of approaching games and tournaments in general.
It's fun at times and it's just in reverse order. I used to like being in control and knowing that you know could be a huge difference-maker on the field. It's not the case anymore. But, I'm still able to find impacts in other ways, which is fun and challenging as well, trying to find ways to make the team better.
Do you miss competing?
Definitely. Playing on the big stage is the one thing I miss the most. But, it's the only thing I miss. I know everything that comes with it: the sacrifices, the time you have to put into practice, and everything else. That I don't miss, but when it's tournament time and competing on the stage, I do miss that feeling.
At least you get still be there in the same capacity, and you're going to be meeting all the people you've played with and against over the years.
We've got some of the most exciting French players in the game housed at Vitality now. Do you think this team has what it takes to put France back on top?
Hey, France has always been on top. The last one was a bit disappointing for French players, but I still feel like we are the most stacked nation in the world.
It's an asset right now to have that much talent in the French team because you don't have to necessarily look at all the international options when recruiting. You have so much talent in France that you can build teams easily. You can build extremely competitive teams just with French-speaking players, and it's actually a huge advantage of like being able to speak your natural language.
What is it about France and the culture that breeds players so good at Rocket League?
That's a really hard question to answer because everybody's different, but our passion seems to be unmatched.
I think it's an inferior thing. At the start, right at the beginning of Rocket League, we did not have lots of French players.
In the early seasons, we had only four of us, Kaydop, Fairy, myself, and Chausette45. But we've paved the way I feel like, especially Kaydop and Fairy Peak!, but mostly Kaydop, really pushed the boundaries a step further to what was possible for French people.
They were streaming a lot, bringing new audiences to the game, and they influenced people. They were not just streamers, they were like competing at the highest level and actually winning the most prestigious events. So I think that gave a lot of motivation to all of the young viewers to actually try and do the same.
I think they've inspired a lot of new blood that eventually came in. That's what Monkey M00n said, for example, after he won Worlds. Kaydop was a huge inspiration for him and a lot of French players are like that nowadays.
They've grown up with the previous generation of French players and since they were putting out so much content, competing at the top events, and streaming like with Kaydop and Fairy, I think they had models to rely on, to follow and to be attached to, and to be motivated by in comparison to other countries.
I feel like it was a huge help and boost, and it had a big impact on some of the new players.
Do you see new players like Monkey Moon and Vitality's Alpha54, for example, being the new Kaydop and Fairy Peak!?
Alpha's been here for a while, so I don't know if put him in the 'upcomer' category.
I see more like Monkey Moon maybe, maybe Vatira, some of the more recent guys that came around after the new RLCS format. So players such as Vatir, ExoTiik, and itachi - even if he's not a French native, he is a French-speaking player and he's been in the French community for a while - I do see them as like the new French blood.
We are going to keep winning bringing home more championships.
You speak about bagging more championships. You're off to the major this week. What are the goals for Vitality in this major?
It's going to sound a bit lame, but winning the event is obviously going to be the goal.
I say that because I feel like when speaking about regionals, it's not necessarily always the main goal. Regionals are online. Winning Regionals ultimately doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. But winning a major, it's on another level.
It's a big objective. We don't have that many chances during the year, and it's going to have a huge impact on the remainder of the season. So winning the event is going to be our goal, but with the way the bracket work, the way our group is right now, and the momentum we have, if we can make it to the playoffs and get top-eight, at least, we would be relatively happy.
Then each win is going to bring even more happiness. Top-eight would be a result that we would be satisfied with, somewhat. But we don't intend to stop there.
You've always got a shoot for number one. You always have to try and strive to be the best. Finally, before we see you in action, have you got a message for the Vitality fans, the bees, around the world that can't wait to see you all back on LAN for the first time in quite a while?
Enjoy it! Because it's been a while and we'll hopefully make it as far as possible. So yeah, enjoy it.
That said, this is only the beginning of this project and I'm glad that we're here. It's not going to be the end of it, and there are definitely going to be bigger and better things later on.
Team Vitality kick off their Winter Major run against MENA's Team Falcon on April 7, 00:00 BST (April 7, 1 am CEST / April 6, 4 pm PDT), where they will look to book a spot in the playoffs.
Image assets provided by Team Vitality | Swipe Right