“It's only been one week, but it already feels like I've been overthinking too much.”
That was the honest reflection of Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodríguez shortly after his first win as Fnatic’s new coach, a very different role to what he’s used to. While he’s relatively comfortable watching games from backstage instead of playing in front of the crowd, the Spaniard admits there’s one thing he’s still adapting to:
“Going on stage and drafting was an added responsibility. I have the final call,” he says. “I assume it's going to get easier with time but I didn't expect it to be so nerve wracking."
“I dropped myself here, I want to be here.”
It was a baptism of fire for Mithy on the first day of the season, as Fnatic faced the revamped roster of his former team, Origen. It was a tough challenge and one that ended in defeat, but the new coach remained upbeat:
“I think we played well, it was our first game on stage, so it's expected to not play with the same comfort levels as in scrims. So, we could have maybe forced differently or a bit smarter in certain situations, but we got really out-drafted. Considering how hard it was to play the game out, we did a good job staying in it for so long."
Since then, Fnatic is undefeated following dominant displays against Misfits, Schalke 04, and SK Gaming. It’s business as usual for the team who will want to go one step further than the previous Summer Split, and knock G2 Esports from their throne.
Mithy relishes a title race, which is why he chose to join Fnatic as a coach rather than continue his career as a player. The former support has taken on possibly one of the most intimidating coaching roles possible to start the new phase of his career, but when asked if he has been dropped in the deep end Mithy responds: “I dropped myself here, I want to be here.”
“It's not like I feel pressure. I've already failed enough to understand that life goes on,” he says. “If it does happen to be a rough year or two, or a bad time in my life – and I don't think it will be – it's just about getting the good parts out and learning from the bad bits.”
As well as hunting for more trophies and success, Mithy says this is a journey of self-development. “I wanted to grow in terms of League of Legends; I didn't want to teach what I've already learned.”
“I'm just here to help out with whatever the players need,” the Spaniard adds, hailing his new roster. “At the end of the day, they are the ones that are playing, they are the ones that are adapting. My knowledge will always be limited unless I play all five roles, and I don't have time or the hands to do that honestly. I just trust them and make sure they understand I believe in them, that they're all really, really good and that's why I joined their team as a coach."
A prestigious and decorated player in his own right, you would imagine the Fnatic squad already admire Mithy, but the former support wants a fresh start: “I don't think my player career should necessarily give me respect. If anything, it gives interest from the players about my past, what I did and why I was where I was, how I worked. But, I don't think it gives respect. Respect is something you earn on a day to day basis.”
Commanding respect will be important to Mithy going forward, in what he himself concedes is a long year where a lot can change. Fnatic had a difficult time in 2019, but Mithy has done his best to put that in the past. He only wants the players looking forward:
“It's a new year. I asked the players to empty as much of their baggage as they could. I've tried to create the culture of Fnatic to be in-sync with what the players feel and it's going well for now. We will see.”
Mithy is taking his first steps on a new path, but along a journey he’s all too familiar with. The three-time European champion will want nothing more than to add a few more titles to his name and once again attend the World Championship. But before he can get there, he has a match this week against another of his former teams; the reigning LEC champions G2 Esports.