While the Turkish Airlines Euroleague finalists, Maccabi Electra and Panathinaikos await the title game Sunday on the Palau Sant Jordi floor, Euroleague for Life’s parallel Final Four in Barcelona, featuring four Special Olympics basketball teams, already crowned its champion, Turkey, by midday Saturday. The final was a thriller between Turkey and Spain that was decided in the last seconds by 19-24, while Italy finished third and Greece, fourth in a game that ended 32-10.
Former players Tomas Jofresa and Roger Esteller, coach Sergio Scariolo and Euroleague Basketball President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu handed out the trophy in the Awards Ceremony, capping off the season for the shinning Final Four teams, who had to endure a tough qualification stage against other European squads. With basketball the third most popular sport in the Special Olympics movement, with more than 53,000 players in Europe/Eurasia, Special Olympics European Basketball Week celebrated another great outing for the second year in a row, and the 24 Barcelona participants will cap off their great weekend by attending all Euroleague Final Four games at the Palau Sant Jordi as special guest, ending with Sunday’s final.
Strategic Planning and Marketing Director of Special Olympics Kai Troll
"I think the teams have showed quite a high level in Barcelona and you can see it with the results on the floor, but most important is that the athletes had the opportunity to play here thanks to the Euroleague, and we have to build now on this sentiment. This is a lifetime opportunity for these athletes, travelling outside their country for the first time, in most cases, and surrounded in an environment of elite athletes, which makes it very special for them. And that’s really the message of inclusion and social integration that the Special Olympics stand for."
With the Special Olympics title decided in Barcelona in Continental basketball’s biggest stage, Euroleague Basketball again emphasizes the importance the game has in order to promote the respect, acceptance and integration of players with intellectual disabilities.
Spain player Esteban Rubio
"We had a great time here and the level of competition was very high. I had a blast both whatching the Final Four , meeting a lot of people and playing in the tournament. Now we are tired form the effort, we could not get the win against Turkey in the Final but we played very well and hope to get back here next year."
Spain head coach Pep Rovira
"The stage is fantastic here in Palau Sant Jordi, next to where the Final Four title will be decided. NIKE and the Euroleague have been great with us. It is the first time we have had this kind of tournament with the Special Olympics and I think we should have one like this every year, wherever the Final Four takes place."