Valorant is on the rise and is rapidly picking up pace in the PC gaming scene in India, with multiple esports teams like Noble Esports and Velocity Gaming entering this FPS shooter's competitive arena. This game is now shaping the overall layout of competitive gaming in this country.
Tamil Tamilas has also made an explosive impact in Indian tournaments and has quite the reputation. Even after playing some very close tournaments and coming second most times, the team has overcome that rough spell and garner the recognition it deserves.
Santhosh Rafaaaa Kumar has been one of the top fraggers from this side and has impressed many with his extraordinary game sense and impeccable aim during matches.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda's Rijit Banerjee, he talked about his stellar aggressive duels, Tamil Tamilas, and the story of becoming one of the best upcoming professional Valorant players in India.
Q. You are an upcoming Indian Valorant professional player who has showcased some great valor when playing for Team Tamilas. Let us start with a brief introduce about yourself for our readers.
R: Well, hello guys! My name is Santhosh Kumar and I go by the in-game nickname, Rafaaaa, and I play for Team Tamilas. I’ve finished my undergraduation and am preparing for further studies. In the meantime, I'm following my passion, which is to compete in esports and represent India in international tournaments.
Q. Before picking up Valorant, what was your previous experience in video games? Is Valorant the first FPS title that you are competing in, or were there others?
R: I’ve been in the competitive esports scene for a long time, and Valorant isn’t my first FPS title. I started playing competitively when I began grinding Call of Duty 4. It was my first multiplayer game, and I got so good that people from various parts of India wanted to play with me, form a team, and all that. I won many tournaments in COD 4, and after the scene started dying, I had to switch to a different game.
That’s when I saw Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, one of the best FPS games made, which was at its peak. I was in awe of the game’s mechanics and wanted to try the game. It was a big surprise that I got good very quickly. I played with Stoner and Flux in a team called Unknown Esports, where we gave our best and got recognized and made it to the ESL Master’s Division.
I knew I could be in one of India’s top teams but didn’t get any good opportunities because of the politics that was going on. Then, my teammates asked me to switch to Valorant as the CS: GO scene was dying in India. At first, I was hesitant, but after all the efforts in CS: GO was wasted, I had to switch to Valorant. And here I am!
Q. Talk to us about your journey. What inspired you to seek a professional career in video games?
R: At first, I played a lot of single-player games. I was into the Call of Duty franchise, which had some of the best campaign/story modes. Ten years back, my PC at home could not run the new COD title released at that time, but I wanted to try that game so badly, so I asked my father to take me to a cafe. That’s where I was in shock to see that people were playing with each other, and I was like, wait, for what? You can do that? That’s when I came to know of multiplayer gaming.
I started to play with those guys and played better than them, even if it was my first time playing multiplayer, and I realized I was good at video games. After going to cafes regularly, I realized that there would be tournaments happening, and there’s a cash/merchandise prize for the same.
I won a few tournaments as my team’s best player, and people appreciated me; and their cheers while playing motivated me to play more and improve. If I could do this locally, why not at the national and international levels? This was my exact thought, and that’s what I’m trying to achieve.
Q. What specific role do you play in the Tamil Tamilas roster? What are your teammates like? Who is the in-game leader (IGL) for the squad?
R: Since I’m a very aggressive player, I am the entry fragger for Team Tamilas. I’m also trying different Agents at the moment and trying to expand my Agents’ pool. Since I have known Stoner and Flex for a long time, the coordination and synergy between us is always right.
Both zoid and TagF are newer to the roster, but we have become good friends in a very short time. As a five-member roster, we started playing Valorant better as a team and reached better placements in tournaments. Honestly, there is no IGL in our group. Everyone will talk and give their inputs, and then we will go forward with what’s best.
Yeah, we know that we will not give our fullest without an IGL, but with the current circumstances, no other options are available. Without a proper IGL, we were able to win the TEC Valorant Series 3. I do believe that with a proper IGL, we will do even better in the near future.
Q. How far do you see Valorant going in the current Indian esports ecosystem?
R: Valorant is a very new FPS. Like PUBG for mobile, Valorant is for PC. The hype is massive, and I hope Valorant doesn’t follow the same path as CS: GO, with frequent roster shuffles, politics, and toxicity.