Premier League footballer subs in for his pro Counter-Strike team at the last minute and turns out to be extremely legit

Ukrainian footballer Zinchenko celebrating.
(Image credit: Stuart MacFarlane via Getty Images)

Oleksandr Zinchenko is a Ukrainian footballer that currently plays for Arsenal in the English Premier League and the Ukrainian national side. The full-back and midfielder is still only 27 years old but has already had a storied career, winning the Premier League four times with previous club Manchester City alongside the FA cup and another four EFL Cups. And as well as being a world-class footballer with the world at his feet, Zinchenko loves a bit of Counter-Strike.

In 2023 Zinchenko founded esports organisation PassionUA alongside former NA'VI coach Mykhailo Blaghin (who won the 2017 PGL Major with Gambit). The goal is to assemble a Counter-Strike team consisting of young Ukrainian players that can compete at the top, and shortly after its founding the focus switched to Counter-Strike 2.

PassionUA is obviously a long-term project for Zinchenko and one he seems to be deeply involved in, but today things got even more hands-on than anyone was expecting. A member of PassionUA's team, zeRRoFIX, ran into technical issues shortly after beginning a match against Bleed at the YaLLa Compass Spring 2024 Contenders.

With one spot on the roster, the call went out to Zinchenko aka Zina to sub-in:

"Activating option 'ZINA GO CARRY,'" boomed the PassionUA account followed by multiple flame emojis. You may well be wondering at this point how good a CS2 player a Premier League footballer can be. Well, double deagle headshots are never a bad thing.

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Here's Zinchenko helping with a key clutch:

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PassionUA was 3-10 down in the match that Zinchenko joined. They ended up winning 16-12. The team's brand account temporarily channelled MGSV at this moment, simply saying "thank you boss."

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Unfortunately there was no fairytale ending. PassionUA was already one map down in a best-of-three, so Zinchenko's winning match levelled the series. On the final map, Anubis, Bleed managed to squeak it 11-13. PassionUA later posted its players' stats and Zinchenko's performance is reasonably impressive with among other things a 22/26 K/D ratio (frankly a lot better than I would've done).

While it seems unlikely we'll be seeing Zinchenko at a Major anytime soon, this is not just a fun story but shows how involved the footballer is with this team. When the new organisation was announced Zinchenko said it had been "a dream of mine for quite some time", and his goal was for it to "stand tall among the giants of the industry." With this kind of ambition and chops behind it, PassionUA may well have a shot.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."