When politics hinder esports: the StarLadder Dota 2 CIS’ case

Usually, politics has nothing to do with esports. However, when conflicts between countries reach a certain level, what happens in the real world can easily affect competitive gaming as well.

The Incident

At the ongoing StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor, two teams almost failed to take part in the event after facing visa issues. This kind of problem is very old and has ruined many people’s ability to take part in important tournaments over the years. However, this type of reasons involved politics in a much more severe way than before.


© StarLadder

The teams that were initially affected by the incident were OG, the former TI champion, and Old but Gold. Both of these teams have Russian players in their composition. OG has one such player while the second team is fully Russian.

The StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor is being held in Kiev, Ukraine, so you can imagine what caused the visa issues. Ukraine and Russia have been involved in a more or less serious conflict for over 4 years. Moreover, in recent months, things have escalated quite badly, even though there are not any military battles taking place. On both sides, we’ve seen sanctions targeting the neighboring country and verbal aggressions.

Implications for the industry

Eventually, after a few days of not knowing what’s going on, the players did get their visas and were able to take part in the event. However, the fact that this incident had to happen in the first place will probably give Valve many concerns regarding future esports events. And their most likely response will be to take politics into account when giving tournament organizers the chance to host events on the territory of certain countries.

The prestige that Dota 2 has at the moment and the importance of the Dota Pro Circuit make incidents like the one we witnessed this week completely unacceptable. It’s much better to simply pick a different country and organizer than to risk your teams’ ability to play in it.