The Noly redemption arc
As they approached their second anniversary, Guild Esports and Joseph "noly" Kidd's relationship appeared strong, but it turned out that the reality was one-sided. The honeymoon period was well and truly over, and it was a case of the disinterested party finally cutting ties.
"It did feel like it was: 'I'm breaking up with you'," explained noly.
Back in 2020, Guild Esports entered Rocket League with the backing of David Beckham's right foot and chequebook, and bent a B-line straight in the direction of the hottest prospects that Europe had to offer. Despite flicking from Flomp Resont to Singularity, Guild's pick-up was destined to be a flop repellant, especially with noly emerging as UK's best rookie after winning The European Invitational.
"I was the first signing for them and there are many great memories, on and off the field," noly said, reflecting back on his breakthrough signing. But success was few and far between. While the roster had no lack of flair, the synergy between noly and his long-standing duo, Thomas "Th0" Binkhorst, was proving hard to match with a third member. Keeping to a British theme, Guild tried to pair Europe's most prospectus brace with Veterans such as Kyle "Scrub Killa" Robertson and David "Deevo" Morrow, but to little avail, leaving an agonising separation as the only option moving forward.
Th0 soon found himself leaving the team, with Guild favouring noly going into the 2021-22 season, putting their trust in his ability and hunger to find himself at the top of the pack. However, even with freedom from the shackles of a weighed-down partner, noly's time at Guild continued to miss the mark, and the Winter Split left fans and players alike yearning for that missing piece of the puzzle.
"For it to happen, it was completely unexpected. It did feel like 'I was breaking up with you'." The benching of noly was far from a saga that painted Guild in glory, given that media reports were the medium of dumping, and heartbreak ensued for noly.
When one door closes, another opens though, and for noly, the wooden panels of his next chapter were dipped in the royal blue of France and the handle was engraved with the white K of Karmine Corp.
Stepping right-foot-first through the gateway, the immediate aura of freshly baked pastries danced into his nostrils. A mere skip across the English Channel saw noly met with the pastures of Paris, the frosted tips of Mont Blanc, and the ringing bells of Notre Dame Cathedral. A new home with immediate affection. The city of love where everything is fresh, and the culture is welcoming.
Having left been given the cold shoulder from Guild, noly's fire was only fuelled. "My agent, Liam, who wasn't even my agent at the time, just a good friend, he helped me through the way. We turned it around as fast as possible, and I was grinding the game 12 hours a day."
"I really wanted to get on any roster and I trialled out with a bunch of teams - some good and some bad - but with K-Corp, my first trial went perfect. I was lucky because they wanted somebody else, but a few changes meant that they couldn't get that player."
It's quite befitting that from a heartbreak comes true love, and for noly and Karmine Corp, the rebound attraction was instantaneous, and their French fancy had him wooed. "It was perfect!" noly reiterated. "I got a message afterwards that said, 'Look, we like the way you play and we want to play your way. You've got the spot'."
From rock bottom came an opportunity, one that would kick-start noly's arc towards redemption, with its trajectory cascading towards international greatness and the first stop on the ascendency was somewhere quite familiar.
From Paris with love
Karmine Corp followed a somewhat similar play style to Guild, given that raw talent came first and undeniable flamboyancy needed to be kneaded together like a croissant's curls. Amine "itachi" Benayachi and Maello "AztraL" Ernst are among two of the most scintillating players in the world, and even with proven championships, the complimenting third man was hard to come by, until stars crossed and noly appeared on their radar.
Freedom and dirty work are what noly describes the bulk of his role to be in Karmine, having the instincts to allow his skilled teammates to go about their business with efficiency and freeing up space for any player on the roster to come up with their signature solo plays. "I can do whatever is necessary," noly began. "If they want to play together, then I will do solo plays. If they want me to clean up the mess, I'll do it. If they want me to be a c**t then I'll go and do it [demo plays]. I'll do what is necessary to win, for me and the team."
After just one split together, the Karmine Corp trio booked themselves a ticket back to familiar territory for noly. The Liverpudlian might not have reached the capital city many times as a youth, but London was calling, and after trading the Albert Docks for the Eiffel Tower, the Spring Split Major saw a return back to England for noly, as Karmine set their sights on winning their first international LAN.
Coming into the event as EU's fourth seed, Karmine's potential was just being unearthed, and noly's rise up his redemption arc was set to take a rapid incline.
Back on home soil, noly led his French-speaking to a top-four finish on the world stage, having beaten the highly-respected FURIA (3-0), reigning champions G2 Esports (3-2), and a fierce-looking FURIA again (4-3), before losing out on third by the skin of their teeth to Version1 (3-4) and suffering defeat to eventual champions Moist Esports (1-4).
"A lot of people doubted us. I think we were expected to be top-12, which in my opinion is not good enough. We should never be rated that low, Getting top-6 in the lower bracket made us realise how good we can be and now we're a top-four team and need to keep winning."
The support of thousands
The grass isn't always greener on the other side, but maybe on the other side of the sea, the Rocket League culture is quite indifferent. Given that noly's story at Guild ended with a lack of respect and appreciation, the opening arms of Karmine's avid fan base was just what he needs.
Largely known as being one of the best set of fans in the world, noly showed his admiration for the blue wall and his desire to win for them. "From the jump, they welcomed me and appreciated me, and made me feel like I want to win for this team," noly began. "Not for just me, for Aztral, Itachi, Eversax [Benjamin Wagner- Head Coach], not for the org, but for the actual fan base. Because of the amount of support that they've given me, I couldn't disappoint them, I couldn't get bad results for how they have treated us."
"Knowing that there are fans out there who are supporting me for me and the team - not just a casual viewer who, as soon as we lose they support another team, but those who as soon as we lose they leave because they have no one else to support - it's just tremendous."
For noly, the redemption arc is only just turning in his favour. With the backing of tens of thousands of fans, the support of two exhilarating Rocket League stars, a burning love for the game, and world championships on the horizon, who knows where the peak will lead him to.