This coming weekend, the Halo squad of Vinco Gaming will be facing off against 11 other teams from the Europe and Middle East in the EMEA regional finals. The top four teams in Germany will then head to the United States to play against the best in the world and their share of what will be over $2 million.

And if you have no clue that this is happening, then shame on you.

Vinco will be facing two tough opponents in Vitality and Team Infused, but only need to finish between the two teams to secure a spot in the playoffs. Only is obviously a small word with a big requirement, but the team looked good in the local tournaments and qualifiers.

However, due to an issue with one of their players not securing travel documents in time, they have had to pull in a very capable sub in New Zealander-now-an-Irishman – Havoc. While his arrival may unsettle an established squad, his experience may still prove invaluable to a team with limited experience playing in a ‘LAN’ environment. (Yes, it’s not strictly a LAN with Halo 5, but it is as close as the game gets).

I asked team captain, Danny ‘Pupsky’ Bechus about their preparations, the team change and their chances this coming weekend, and this is what he had to say.

So, how are the preparations going for EMEA finals?

Preparations are going well. We’ve scrimmed a few games since picking up Liam (Havoc) and we have improved a lot since. We’ve also been looking over our scrim games in theatre and commenting on what’s best to do in each situation as well as spending time discussing lots between us and tweaking small things. We’ll probably continue to do so when the team is together in Cologne.

There’s been a team change since the SA qualifiers due to passport issues with Michael “Plain Filth” De Carvalho. Who is stepping in to play as your fourth?

Indeed. Our team has taken some heavy knocks since we first formed. Our first-choice teammate and great friend Dewald “Dewy” couldn’t play because of his unfortunate current situation of battling with carpal tunnel. He was also our first-choice coach/manager but his doctor advised that he not travel soon after surgery. Now Michael “Plain Filth” unfortunately did not have a few of his travelling documents up to scratch since his parents did not want to spend the money incase we did not qualify. We have picked up Liam “Havoc” Peck from Ireland as our 4th for the EMEA finals.

Why you decided to go with a player not from South Africa?

The main concern was that because of it being so close to the time (a week before the event because we spent a week after qualifying trying to organise our own travel arrangements as well as do everything we can to see if Michael was able to come), it would have almost been impossible for a South African to sort out all of his documents including a visa which takes a total of at least a week to organise. The rules for the event said that you may only have 1 player who is not a citizen of your country provided he is in the region that you are next competing in (our next region being Europe) and that the change is allowed by ESL (which they accepted due to time shortages for travelling south Africans and because of the fact that 2 of our current members were unable to travel) and so we decided it would be best suitable to take someone who is 100% able to travel. Additionally, since Liam has not been competing after the UK qualifiers, he was nice enough to coach our team since we were friends and because he had the time to. Hence we thought he would slip in easily since he knew all of our strategies and play styles.

Give us a brief history of Havoc’s Halo background and pedigree.

Liam has been playing Halo since the Halo 3 days like all of us. He used to live in New Zealand where he only attended one event. He then moved to Ireland around 4-5 years ago where he didn’t play much of Halo 4, but when MCC launched he was able to get into a top team and compete during Halo 2 Anniversary where he made some good placements. During Halo 5 he’s been working hard and managed to place 4th at the UK final qualifiers for EMEA (one place off qualifying with his team). Since he’s been coaching us, he’s taught us a good few things about 4v4 Halo and Halo in general and has really done well to get us more disciplined. He’s a very experienced and smart player as well as a great leader and just a very nice guy in general who motivates us all, he’s definitely one of us.

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You’ve been drawn in a pretty tough group with Team Infused and Vitality to contend with. Do you have a plan on how you will approach the matches against these two teams?

Indeed they are both tough contenders since Infused is currently the 3rd seeded UK team as well as one of the favourites to qualify and Vitality are currently the 2nd seeded French team. Like I’ve said before you have to treat every opponent the same and have the same mindset every game. To elaborate, our mindset is that we have the confidence in ourselves that if we concentrate and remember what we practiced and take one game at a time, we can beat anybody. Some tiny things might change depending on who we play and our knowledge of them. Besides that, we always motivate each other and we know that we have what it takes to beat anybody since we have the talent in our team. We’re very excited too, and that’s always important.

Do you think you guys will be able to match them and even go on to secure a playoff spot?

Of course. If we did not believe that we would not have practiced like we have been for the past two months and we would have simply been tourists in Cologne. Our team does not have the mindset of “let’s do our best not to get embarrassed”, because if you have that mindset you probably will get embarrassed. We’ve been working and practicing at winning and being able to beat any team, so we definitely have the mindset that we can go all the way, otherwise we shouldn’t bother competing.

We would – on behalf of all our readers and local community – like to wish you all the best for your adventure in Germany. Is there anything you would like to add before heading off?

We would just like to thank everybody in the local community for all the support, especially you guys from Zombiegamer who would move mountains for us and the boys from Vinco Gaming for all the support and love they’ve given us. And to all the people who congratulated us and wished us luck, we really are extremely thankful. We can’t wait to do our best for our county in Cologne and to share our experiences with you guys once we get back! Thank you again for all the love and support.

Watch the matches live

The matches are currently scheduled to be streamed live via the Halo Twitch channel and the ESL Halo channel. The exact times of the Vinco matches are not yet confirmed but the action kicks off Saturday at 1:45pm (SA time) with the group matches. On Sunday, the playoffs start at 1:45pm.

Sadly, a planned streaming event in Gauteng by Xbox SA has been cancelled due to “unforeseen circumstances”. That should not stop you from supporting the team, and we suggest doing so via social media and the stream itself.

Vinco Gaming: Facebook | Twitter

If you want to know more about the upcoming tournament, I did an interview with the team for MWEB GameZone just after they won the South African qualifier. You can also read more about the Halo World Championship here and here.

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