While the Final Four is the climax of the Euroleague season, the weekend is not just about the four teams battling through to the Championship game. Yes, this should be a big focus of the weekend and for Real Madrid and Olympiacos Piraeus fans and players, it will be the only thing on their mind at the moment, but there is a great deal on offer from the Final Four weekend.
This was brought to the fore on Friday morning with a celebrity basketball game in the Plaza de Oriente in Madrid on Friday morning. The special occasion saw children from local schools being brought together on the same basketball court as some of the biggest stars in European and Madrid basketball history. Sport is great by itself, but sport can also be a driver for social change, and this is something that the Euroleague Final Four weekend has looked to provide. Not every youngster in Madrid who was involved will have a love of basketball, but if you can help kids to play with other children and have some fun, there is a lot to be said for the overall good that comes from these events.
Plenty of Euroleague experience on show
When you think about the fact that the players on show have a total of 6 European titles between them, it was definitely a day to be excited about. It was probably fair to say that there were plenty of proud and excited parents on show, and that some of the parents would have been more excited than their kids.
Theo Papaloukas and Nikola Vujcic were on hand at the event and these two players have two Euroleague winners medals each. There was also a special treat for local fans as Jose Miguel Antunez and Joe Arlauckas from the succesful Real Madrid team from 1995 were on hand to teach kids some basketball drills. These two players were in the last Real Madrid team to taste European glory, although that is a fact that all of the locals will be hoping is no longer the case by the end of this weekend.
Jose Miguel Antunez was a big favourite with the local crowd
Antunez spoke after the event, saying; “Feeling is great because all things that we can do for kids and for basketball are great. If we can do something for the little kids, give them opportunity to play basketball and give them hope in real life, that is great. This is also a way to give back to the sport of basketball that gave us so much.” One big highlight of the session came when Arlauckas lifted one of the youngstres high above the rim, allowing the kid to slam-dunk the ball into the basket. This is the sort of memory that will last a lifetime, and is definitely the sort of sight that will create a love of basketball for the people who were on hand.
One Team is the highly acclaimed social repsonoibility programme organised by Euroleague, in association with Turkish Airlines. The project involves 31 clubs across 14 different countries in Europe. There is a lot of fun at the sessions but the main aim is on providing support to youngsters who may be suffering from abuse, disabilities, inequalities and economic disadvantages. One Team, which was set up in 2012, is proud to have directly assisted 5,000 participants and the organisation is able to account for another 5,000 indirect participants.