The CS:GO sh1ro Antwerp sticker drama, explained
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photo by JoaoFerreira. Provided by PGL

The CS:GO sh1ro Antwerp sticker drama, explained

Some felt that a Z-shaped mark could be misconstrued as support for the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war

Counter-Strike Twitter has been squabbling throughout the morning of May 4 over a Z-shaped mark in Dmitriy “sh1ro” Sokolov’s PGL Major Antwerp 2022 autograph sticker. Some contend that it was an oversight for the Russian player to have a squiggle resembling the letter Z — which has became a symbol that marks support for the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine — while others disagree.

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The discourse around the virtual sticker took off when a prominent Counter-Strike: Global Offensive reporter @neLendirekt quote retweeted an image of the sticker. The caption drew attention to how the design change (sh1ro’s sticker design differed from his previous design for the PGL Major Stockholm 2021) featured a symbol that could “potentially be interpreted as a Z” in what he called a “clumsy” move.

On Tuesday, Valve released stickers commemorating PGL Major Antwerp. These include team and individual player autograph stickers. Players have the autonomy to submit their designs to Valve so long as they adhere with certain imposed guidelines. Cloud9’s sh1ro opted to change the design of his sticker from the previous major to the new one that incited discussion.

After the initial reaction to the Z-shaped scribble, many users on Twitter shot down the perceived connection to the Z symbol. FaZe Clan’s Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken tweeted, “This is quite the reach. Clearly a normal scribble that players add for detail.” He added that those involved wouldn’t have interpreted the mark as support for the Russian invasion.

Others also pointed out that the particular accent has been used for years by other professional CS:GO players. In fact, one user pointed out that a similar accent was even shown in Valve’s guide for uploading the stickers.

Finally, the designer of the sticker, a former graphic designer for Gambit Esports named Pavel Ilyashenko, took to Twitter to address concerns. He asserted that the sticker was designed before the Russian invasion of Ukraine even began.

This is not the first time that sh1ro, a Russian native, has been directly impacted by the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. His team’s previous organization, Gambit Esports, was sanctioned by CS:GO tournament organizers BLAST and ESL. These sanctions were a large part of the reason he and his teammates transferred to Cloud9. At no point has sh1ro released public statements voicing support for the war.

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Coby Zucker
Coby Zucker is Upcomer's resident CS:GO writer. He's also played League of Legends at the collegiate level and is a frequent visitor in TFT Challenger Elo. He's a firm believer that Toronto should be the next big esports hub city.