Thursday, June 30, 2022

Alliance.Coven: VALORANT powered by Danah

Dana “Danah” Al-Madhoun began her esports journey at the age of 19 after giving up competitive volleyball. The now 25-year-old used to represent the country of Qatar as an outside player and team captain at international tournaments. She described the feeling of adrenaline hitting her body while playing volleyball abroad as a camera lens focusing, heightening her senses as the whistle blows and the ball is served over the net. Danah said she has the same feeling when the first round of a VALORANT match is counted down in a tournament.

“I’ve felt this before and I know how it feels, but you don’t physically do anything,” Danah said.

The Qatar national team to regular college students

Danah, the youngest of five siblings, gave up her favorite sport after a spinal injury to play international volleyball and attend college. After being diagnosed with lumbar radiculopathy at 17 because her punching form was causing her back to be hyperextended, she required physical therapy and pain-relieving techniques (massages and acupuncture or pills) to continue playing.

However, when she left the court, Danah had plenty of free time and decided to fill it with games. She started League of Legends hoping to train with the multiplayer online battle arena title until she could play her eldest brother’s favorite game, DOTA 2. She just didn’t want to look like a “freshman” compared to him.

“I wanted to impress him. I wanted to be good to him so we could play together,” Danah said. “And I fell more in love with League and actually kept playing it, and then I didn’t care [DOTA 2].”

Then she found Counter-Strike and discovered that she liked the first-person shooter genre more. She enjoyed being behind the camera more than controlling units and watching her character move.

Danah got her start in the sport in 2018 when she started competing in local LAN tournaments. But the Counter-Strike competitive scene in the Middle East is pretty much dead – and the women’s scene doesn’t exist – so competing locally was all she could do at the time.

“Imagine if you were a woman in a region where you tend to be neglected because, as we know, you don’t get as much attention in tournaments as men do,” Danah said. “So I really didn’t think much about it. I just wanted to play for fun.”

Outside of LAN tournaments, she said she also played Counter-Strike on her laptop. Her parents wouldn’t let her get a PC until she graduated from college, so they “tricked” them into getting her (what she thought at the time) a powerful laptop to convince her that she could use it for her Degree in computer engineering would need to run specific software.

From esports pro to VALORANT pro

Danah on Raze
Danah plays Raze against Esport Generation in a VRL France: Revolution qualifier. | Provided by Twitch user CakyChan

When VALORANT first came out, Danah said she wasn’t very interested. She only started playing in early 2021.

Danah first joined VALORANT for fun – but then as a competitive outlet after a friend she played competitive Counter-Strike with wanted to switch to the new title. Finally, after a random ranked match, she received an unexpected invitation to join a new team and that team was banned in chat.

The non-signed roster went through several iterations with at least one change for every Game Changers event in Europe, Middle East and Africa. But regardless of her teammates, Danah played Entry and usually always chose Raze at least once in each series. She also grew into the team’s emotion leader, hyping the team and getting loud when needed.

“She was always able to give the team the power it needed,” said Alliance.Coven coach Aymeric “Izzy” Ast.

Though she doesn’t always choose the right spot for her encouragement and voice, Izzy said that Danah acts as the team’s battery and is always outgoing, both in and out of the game. That comes from what Danah said is her drive to fight for glory, and Jade Duffy, leader in the game Alliance.Coven, said the passion was evident from the start.

“In auditions, you just tell her the way it was done,” Jade said. “She takes it very seriously and is very involved in the game.”

Izzy said when he joined the team he saw the strength of Alliance.Coven as a group. They had incredible on-site coordination and were great at hitting the other team fast and hard. Danah often cited this charge as an entry duelist.

However, if it were up against better competition, according to Izzy, the team “would be read like a book.” Alliance.Coven wants to change that at the EMEA Game Changers Series 1 2022. Nonetheless, ChatBanned had already placed in the top 4 Game Changers prior to signing with Alliance and had a significant win to their tally.

In the Game Changers Series 3 qualifiers in 2021, ChatBanned played a best-of-one match against G2 Gozen and won game practical, 13-6. After the win, Danah screamed so loud that her mother ran into her room, wondering if something was wrong.

But that win isn’t the ultimate goal for this team, and it’s not all about the competition either game changer or win the tournament. For Danah, esports and VALORANT are another way to pursue what she had in volleyball, and this win tasted her glory again.

“When we all gather in the middle and we’re so happy that we’re tearing up, I just want that feeling back – and that’s my goal. That’s my goal,” Danah said. “I play for glory and nothing else and I will do everything in my power and everything to get closer to that goal.”

“I will not stop. I will not allow myself to stumble or fall back.”

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