At the age of 29, Aleksi ‘allu’ Jalli is looking to start a new chapter in his career. But he knows he will have many obstacles to overcome after what happened in his previous team.
The Finnish player is itching to get back in the game after spending the last four months away from action due to personal reasons.
Allu has been competing at the top in the Counter-Strike scene since 2013. He has played for a number of big teams, including NIP, FaZe and ENCE, and won over $400,000 in prize money, which makes him the fifth-biggest earner in Finnish esports.
But that success came at a cost: the years out on the road and constantly on the grind took their toll on him and led him to feel overwhelming fatigue. A break was needed to recharge, protect his mental health, and rediscover the joy of playing the game.
“From 2020 until I decided I needed to leave I felt like I was on borrowed time,” he told Dexerto. “Playing professionally can be quite stressful, especially with all the traveling and the constant need to perform.
“There had been a lot of changes in my personal life, one of which was becoming a father a bit more than two years ago. I never really had the time to stop, think, enjoy, and put things the way they should be. You’re burning the candle at both ends all the time, so to speak.”
Allu has no doubt that his performances suffered because of this. According to him, the game “felt really bad”, and even playing official matches “didn’t feel right.”
“I kind of lost the flame to play,” he explained. “I thought about it for three weeks and then told my teammates that this was just not good enough anymore and that I needed to sort my head and figure things out.”
During his time off, allu didn’t touch CS:GO at all, instead focusing his energy on getting back to a healthy place. After concluding that he still wanted to commit to the game, he began developing a balanced routine to prevent slipping back into his old habits.
Allu is not the only player at the highest level in CS:GO who has had to take a break from the game due to burnout and mental health concerns — issues that have become even more acute during the ‘online era’ caused by the global health situation.
Lukas ‘gla1ve’ Rossander and Andreas ‘Xyp9x’ Højsleth are the most prominent such cases, but only on September 15, it was announced that the Evil Geniuses duo of Peter ‘stanislaw’ Jarguz and Vincent ‘Brehze’ Cayonte would miss the BLAST Premier Fall Groups after requesting “time away to focus on their respective mental health.”
In most cases, players find their roster spots waiting for them when they return to work, but it was different with allu. When he decided it was time to come back, ENCE had already moved on, having already secured Olek ‘hades’ Miskiewicz on a permanent basis.
And given the team’s success with the Polish talent, allu holds no resentment towards ENCE.
“I thought returning might be a possibility, but in my own head it was kind of already done,” he said. “I left at a bad time. There was a lot coming up and they found hades, who has been doing an amazing job, to be honest.
“They’ve been doing well and it’s been going upwards, so I didn’t think there was a reason for me to come back.”
Road back to the top
Allu is focused on getting his form back after several months out of action. He is seen streaming FPL matches on a regular basis and is constantly watching top-tier matches to stay up to date on the latest tendencies, even though he thinks that not much has changed since his break.
His recovery took a brief setback in August following a freakish accident while at home. He was doing pull-ups when the bar dislodged from the wall, sending him crashing to the floor.
“My kneecap broke and the doctor said that I couldn’t sit for two or three weeks, so that was kind of unfortunate,” he said, laughing.
“It was the craziest and the most unlucky situation.”
With PGL Major Stockholm just around the corner, allu knows that most teams are holding off on making changes, so he’s not in a hurry to find a new home. His ENCE contract also expires in December, so it’s unlikely that he will return to competition before the turn of the year.
In the past 12 months many unsettled CS:GO players have pursued a new career path in Valorant, lured by the riches on offer in the scene and by the promise of a stable competitive circuit backed by Riot Games itself.
Allu’s former ENCE teammate Elias ‘Jamppi’ Olkkonen has enjoyed success in the game, as have Santeri ‘BONECOLD’ Sassi (Acend) and Nikita ‘Derke’ Sirmitev (Fnatic), two other Finnish players who also came from Counter-Strike.
Allu admitted that while the thought of moving to Valorant did spark his curiosity at one point, he is not thinking about switching games.
“The thought was in my head for like a minute,” he said. “I’ve never played the game. I did download it, but I recently removed it because I needed to free some space on my hard drive.
“I’ve watched some streams just to see how it is, also because Jamppi plays it, so I was trying to see what was up there. But it just doesn’t… I can’t see myself playing that game.
“I haven’t played it, so my opinion could be different if I had. But in the end, CS has given me so much. I truly love this game. I have no reason to switch.”
It feels as though allu still has a point to prove in the Counter-Strike scene after the dramatic fall from grace of ENCE’s Finnish project.
Things took an unexpected turn in December 2020, when allu appeared on the ‘HLTV Confirmed’ podcast to discuss the team’s struggles in the previous 18 months. While the show was running, former and then-current ENCE players claimed that allu’s account of the events was inaccurate, with Jere ‘sergej’ Salo going as far as to claim that the veteran’s “personality isn’t as simple or harmless as it might seem.”
As the debate about the team’s downfall and allu’s role in it heated up, ENCE issued a statement taking “full responsibility for not understanding the severity of the existent problems”. They also vowed to investigate how they had allowed such deep-rooted issues to go unchecked for so long.
Just three weeks into 2021, ENCE announced their new, international lineup, which included allu. In an interview with HLTV.org, Niklas Ojalainen, General Manager at ENCE, explained that allu had shown a strong willingness to improve as a person, and refused to single anyone out for blame, saying that “a lot of people” were responsible for the collapse of the team.
But it’s inevitable for one to feel that allu’s career will be defined more by this episode and its impact on the public perception of him than by all that he has achieved on the server.
And while he is not too concerned about the court of public opinion, he knows that his chances of finding a new team are inevitably tied to what is said behind the scenes.
“What happened to me was kind of hard,” he said. “I think it’s something that I honestly did not deserve. I don’t mind the public speech, it has not been a concern of mine throughout my career, but it obviously affects me because you just hear stuff.
“It’s just the narrative, like I’m the most terrible person. That’s just funny [laughs]. It’s not true.
“Every coin has two sides, and I’ve kept my side of the story with me.”
Does this mean that one day he will tell his side? “At some point, maybe. We’ll see.”
Allu added that he is “here to prove people wrong.” Not just those who think he is a troublesome player who was at the root of ENCE’s problems, but also those who believe that someone of his age is too old to make an impact in the game.
Taking a time out earlier this year has been very good but now its time to get back to work 😈 If there is a need for experienced & motivated player hit me up!
— Aleksi Jalli (@alluCSGO) July 14, 2021
He is working hard to show everyone that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
“I really don’t think that age is a determining factor,” he said. “I think it’s more about your mental state, how much effort and work you put in, your willingness, than about age.
“In NHL, there can be a goalkeeper who is 40 years old. If a person in that competitive league can do it, why can’t someone who is playing CS, for example?
“I just want to be out there competing.”