For Adel Anouche and Amgad Al-Shalabi, also known as "Big Bird" and "Angry Bird" respectively, their journey into the video-game world of competitive Street Fighter began as a fun and casual pastime.
All the way back in 2000, Adel stumbled upon the game at a Amgad’s house gathering and initially didn’t like it because, in his words, “I couldn't do any of the moves in the game.” But boredom eventually struck during his summer break and Adel found himself with his own copy of Street Fighter. He and Amgad eventually started going head to head, their skills developing with every match won or lost. Later down the road they discovered a local arcade and came to the wonderful realization that competitive players existed. It was then that the Birds dove deeper into the game and began competing locally for the next 17 years or so.
In March 2017, when Adel was at his university in Dubai, a Capcom Pro Tour event (CPT) took place, in which Adel competed and came in second place. It was then that Nasr eSports took notice, with Adel’s 55th ranking and trailblazing performance at CPT naturally leading the company to recruit him as their first player. Adel's success in the Asian Southeast tournament culminated in his recognition as the first non-Asian to win an Asian premier event, and with that, he climbed to the top of the competitive pyramid.
Then, according to Amgad, “a year later, Adel introduced me to them as a competitive player and they sponsored me and that started my professional career.” But Amgad’s journey took time as he had been struggling to find his footing.
“It was my first year with Nasr eSports and I had to prove myself, so I was getting nervous and I wasn't performing well, and I lost hope,” he said. “I thought, ‘Okay this isn’t for me, let me go back to accounting’. But then I managed to win 2 consecutive tournaments in Paris and that qualified me to move on to the European regional finals where I won, qualifying me for the Capcom Cup, where I came in 7th place. It really just took me one win to regain my confidence and it changed the way I looked at the game.”
To the two champions, it's crucial to keep training and practicing regularly since their opponents could present any challenge.
“I check the brackets and see who my potential matches are,” Adel said. “I study the strategy until I feel comfortable with the players and the match possibilities. Also, good sleep and then a Red Bull helps.”
For Amgad, it’s a bit different: “I practice every day regardless of my opponent. I practice against every character so I’m ready for anything. I don’t get much sleep though, only 5 hours so caffeine is very important.”
In discussing training and support, both Big Bird and Angry Bird emphasized the crucial roles of their friendship. To them, it’s what sets them apart from their competition. They push one another to succeed before a tournament but focus on their matches as individuals during the event. They appreciate their team, Nasr Esports, and everyone providing support without adding undue stress.
As for their future goals, Adel has his eye on the prize for both the EVO and Capcom Cup championships. Similarly, Amgad is gearing up to win the Capcom Cup.
But despite their shared aspirations, they still view each other as teammates with the same ambition to triumph. For me,” Adel said, “Amgad’s win is my win. He’s only a rival when we play against each other. If I lose to him in a tournament, then it doesn't mean much to me because he's still in the bracket.”
And for Amgad, it’s no different: “I see it as ‘it’s us against everyone’,” he stressed.
Through every fierce competition, the Birds remain united against every obstacle. Their story is truly inspirational, demonstrating that for them, what started as a hobby blossomed into a career driven by passion, commitment, and camaraderie. While competitive gaming continues to expand, these two remain focused on future endgames. And they are winners who know that the sky’s the limit from here on out.