An Interview With Keetra Deile
Greetings, Neopia. My name is Ben and I have been a long time follower of the Altador Cup.
Ever since the first modern Altador Cup eight years ago, Keetra Deile, the captain of Team Virtupets, has dazzled yooyuball enthusiasts all over Neopia with her tenaciousness and style, both on and off the pitch. This young Cybunny's effort paid off when she led Virtupets to their first ever Altador Cup championship in Y9.
Yesterday, the Virtupets team arrived in Altador for Altador Cup IX. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Miss Deile for an in depth interview in the Virtupets locker room before their first practice. I asked her about her trek from an ambitious amateur to Altador Cup champion, what happens off the pitch and her thoughts on the future.
BEN: Keetra Deile, it is an honor to finally meet you in person.
KEETRA: Thank you, Ben. It's great to be back in Altador again!
BEN: First off, may I say, you are looking as lovely as ever.
KEETRA: Awww, thanks. *nervous giggle* I always try to set a good example for all Neopians by staying active and keeping a positive attitude. I admit that I get nervous under huge amounts of pressure and can come off pretty tame sometimes on the pitch. But when the sling comes off, I become one of the nicest Neopians you'll ever meet. I'm a very different person off the yooyuball pitch and it shows.
BEN: It's certainly showing right now.
KEETRA: Which is why I have been working on ignoring the intimidation that opposing players and their fans like to taunt us with. All they want is attention, so the solution is simple: don't give them any.
BEN: Agreed. So let us begin where one would usually start: the beginning, of course. How did you get started playing yooyuball?
KEETRA: Well, I have always had a fascination for things that go, ever since I was little. I would spend hours just watching the rockets and other spaceships depart and arrive on the Space Station. I also liked to visit the Space Petpets shop whenever I could to watch those petpets play and run around and just, well, be cute. I received a Roaderie 1000 for my birthday one year and I loved to chase it around, which is why I nicknamed it Speedy. Soon after I got Speedy, I was introduced to yooyuball during an outing to the Book Shop at Neopia Central. The shopkeeper, seeing I had a fascination for everything and anything on the move, gave me a book on ancient Altador and suggested I read up on the sport. I did and became entranced by yooyuball's uniqueness. It really stood out to me as a one-of-a-kind game, as opposed to other sports. So, about a month later, I discovered a junior yooyuball league and joined a team of mostly inexperienced players. My passion for this fast-paced sport blossomed immediately. It quickly became clear to my coaches that I was destined to become something greater, beyond this small, ragtag team of yooyuballers. In my first year with the team, I won the league's Rookie of the Year award and my team ended that year with its first ever winning season. I became the highest scoring player in the league after two years and became the team captain after three. The rest, you could say, is history.
BEN: You were considered a prodigy at a young age.
KEETRA: That's what everyone says. I'm not going to admit to it because I don't like to boast. But I understand that others manage to see in me a light that burns brighter than the brightest Light Faerie whenever I step onto that yooyuball pitch. Neopians see me out there and they say amongst themselves: "Look at her go. That girl's got tremendous potential to be a legend in this game."
BEN: When you're not on the yooyuball pitch, blazing past your opponents and firing that Yooyu past the goalkeeper, what do you like to do in your spare time?
KEETRA: Oddly enough, I like to watch other sports. I'm particularly fascinated with Gormball, actually.
BEN: You ever try playing Gormball?
KEETRA: Once. I was horrible. I tend to get a little riled up if I have to sit or stand still for too long. The amount of concentration and patience required to be a master Gormball player goes well beyond yooyuball tactics. One must be very delicate with that Gormball and when you've been a yooyuball player all your life, going from yooyuball to Gormball is a huge change of pace. But it makes for quite an intense spectacle. So, in short, I prefer to spectate other sports, but not play them. I'll stick with playing yooyuball.
BEN: I see. Anything else you like to do in your spare time?
KEETRA: I also like to read. Stories with lots of action and drama are my favorites. I would highly recommend The Life of Cylara. I've lost track of how many times I've read that book. The stories she tells are THAT exciting.
BEN: Do your teammates share the same interests as you?
KEETRA: Not exactly. The others have a knack for all things mechanical. You can usually find them at the station's main hangar doing repairs or maintenance on anything that runs on either fuel or electricity. I also know Weldar spends a lot of time in the Space Station's gym during the off-season so he can maintain his strength. Sela likes to go to the gym as well, when she's not listening to bands like Sticks N Stones or Gruundo while tinkering around with an engine or something.
BEN: How well do you get along with your teammates and how does that affect your performance on the yooyuball pitch?
KEETRA: My teammates and I have formed a bond that cannot be broken. There is very little, if any, drama on or off the pitch. Attitude is everything and we must keep an optimistic attitude if we want to succeed. All we need to do is communicate our strategies efficiently with each other and if there are any misunderstandings, we always make sure to clarify. Communication is the key to this game and to a successful run for the Cup.
BEN: On the subject of team dynamics, what is it like to have Robot Neopets on your team? Do you consider having Robot teammates a huge advantage over other teams?
KEETRA: Yes and no. Goltron and Striker are special because they don't fall victim to fatigue so quickly. Before every game, as we discuss our game plans, they will always calculate and point out any flaws if necessary. But ever since our championship, our strategies have become pretty predictable to our opponents and that gives them a huge advantage. I understand why Sela described our recent tactics as "freewheeling" and I think that might be one of the many reasons we haven't been playing to our absolute potential since our only Altador Cup championship. Going from first to a tie for sixteenth place in only two years; that's a thought anyone would find difficult to stomach. So, we've made several adjustments in strategy during the offseason and discussed a possible change in formation, but we have not finalized anything regarding formation yet.
BEN: I assume you believe in the infamous "Winner's curse?"
KEETRA: I'm not superstitious, but it sure seems like it's no coincidence; there haven't been any repeat winners yet. Following Lost Desert's less than stellar finish in the year we won the whole enchilada, so to speak, Leera Heggle came up to me after the closing & awards ceremony and whispered to me: "Enjoy your victory while you can. It's all downhill from here." I shrugged it off, thinking he was just jealous and incredibly stressed from his team's performance. Turns out he was trying to make a point. But that was then and this is now. We are determined to end this so-called "Winner's Curse" once and for all. We will do whatever it takes.
BEN: Can you elaborate?
KEETRA: I guess support wanes for any team who has already won the Altador Cup and we're no exception. We need as much support as possible: fans buying our team gear and souvenirs, cheering us on in the coliseum, or even coming to watch us play to begin with. A little effort goes a long way.
BEN: How did it feel to win the Altador Cup in Y9?
KEETRA: It was the most exhilarating feeling my teammates and I ever had. To be declared champions and knowing that your names will be spoken in awestruck, reverent tones by future generations of yooyuball enthusiasts, that is a feeling that lives with you forever.
BEN: I understand Dr. Sloth was happy with your victory, too.
KEETRA: The general public believes we have an allegiance to him. Pfft. I don't give a Charnie's behind about Sloth. He manipulated Virtupets' Altador Cup victory as a victory for his causes. He's so full of himself and that's a huge turnoff for all of us. So the assumption is we're Sloth's underlings, being controlled by him behind the scenes. But the reality is: we're here to play yooyuball. We're here to enjoy what we like to do. We're here to have fun. We want nothing to do with Dr. Sloth.
BEN: In eight years of the modern Altador Cup, you have been, and still are, the only Cybunny to have played in the tournament. Ever. How does that feel?
KEETRA: I have to admit that it is a lot of pressure and I have a lot to prove. But fortunately I am not, without question, the only one of a species to be represented in the Altador Cup. "Trapper" Remis is the only Poogle to have partaken in the Cup. Clutch Billaban is the only Pteri, Jurin T. is the only Ruki, Lilo Blumario is the only Blumaroo, Loryche is the only Chomby and Leera Heggle is the only Kau. May I note that the latter three are captains of Altador Cup-winning teams? So they have a lot to prove as well. It's a huge honor but at the same time it's a huge responsibility being the lone representative of your species. But I am most certainly not the only one who feels the same way.
BEN: What do you expect from this year's Altador Cup?
KEETRA: Oh, I expect a lot this time around. Following Tyrannia's domination and Altador's surprising second place finish last year, not to mention the trade of players between Kreludor and Krawk Island and the arrival of a newcomer for team Haunted Woods this year, the Cup has become more unpredictable than ever before. You will be cheering on Team Virtupets, right?
BEN: As much as I hate to admit it, my loyalties lie with Shenkuu at the moment.
KEETRA: Aw, come on, you're missing out. You could gain access to our exclusive fan club at Grundo's Café! Their Glowing Pretzels and Galactic Cherry Pies cannot be beat!
BEN: Thanks for the offer, but I will pass.
KEETRA: Suit yourself. Shenkuu has a lot of potential to be champions but it seems they always sputter out just before the tournament ends.
BEN: And that's exactly why I'll be rooting for them. I'm optimistic. They've made the medal stand multiple times in the past and I believe it's high time for them to take the title this year.
KEETRA: We'll see about that.
BEN: Well, well, feisty, aren't we?
KEETRA: *giggles* You know me quite well. I guess you could say that I'm Virtupet-ICULAR about my sense of humor.
BEN: Heh, that's a good one. You should take that one to King Skarl in Meridell.
KEETRA: You know what? I think I will.
BEN: Then HOP to it! Haha, get it? You're a Cybunny and Cybunnies, you know...
BEN: ...well, anyway, looking at the time here, I'm afraid we are going to have to wrap this interview up. Do you have any last words?
KEETRA: My message to all Altador Cup fans: have fun and show your team spirit but please be respectful. When you're not respectful, you're only hurting yourselves, the teams you support and others around you, whether they are fans of a rival team or if they are staff members at the coliseum who are just trying to make ends meet. I remember this quote I once read: "Every thought you produce, anything you say, any action you do, it bears your signature." It had a huge impact on how I view the Altador Cup and the culture it has created. So, once again, it's time to show Neopia who we really are. It's time to show Neopia we are one.
BEN: Sounds like you and Mirsha Grelenik have more in common than just a rivalry.
BEN: Thank you so much for taking time out of your VERY busy schedule to talk to me and, in turn, to all those who look to you as a role model. Good luck out there!
KEETRA: No, thank you, Ben. You've been a great interviewer!
And there you have it, folks! Miss Deile had a lot to say and I hope you enjoyed every moment of it. She's sweet and adventurous off the pitch, but on the pitch, she is a real threat to all other teams with her experience and persistence. I hope to be interviewing more Altador Cup participants in the future. Be sure to show support for your favorite teams during Altador Cup IX and thanks for reading!