Hello, Turkish Airlines EuroLeague fans. We meet again! Just one game is left to complete the EuroLeague regular season. Everybody is waiting to know what the final matchups for the playoffs will be. Unfortunately, my teammates and I here in Milan will not be part of those playoffs. Our EuroLeague adventure is finishing at home this week against Panathinaikos Superfoods Athens.
We suffered many defeats by a few points this season, or lost games down the stretch in the last few minutes, and all of those situations kept us from being more involved in the fight here at the end to reach the playoffs. Three or four games that we probably deserved to win could have changed our season and our destiny. We're sorry about that, but we know that we will be back next season to do better.
At the same time, I had the honor to be chosen this season, together with club legend Hugo Sconochini, to represent Olimpia Milan as ambassador for the EuroLeague corporate social responsibility program One Team. This year, Milan has chosen to collaborate with the Azimuth Center, which serves people having problems with drug abuse who wish to start to follow a path of change. Thanks to this project, many of them discovered basketball and the pleasure of playing the game.
The experience of helping them has been one of great emotions for me. From the beginning of the season, the participants held a practice early each week. At the start, it wasn't easy for many of them to understand and learn the rules, but step by step, not only did everyone improve, but now they are ready to face a game!
This week, the One Team guys are playing a game against people from our club's office. The One Team players will have a star with them in Hugo, who's not a boy anymore, but is still in great shape and has the experience of a career that speaks for itself. Hugo won the EuroLeague in 2001 playing with Virtus Bologna and took the gold medal at the Olympic Games in 2004 with the Argentinian national team. I'm unable to think of anything bigger than this!
Hugo has a son playing with Olimpia's under-14 team and I ask him often whether his son will play for the Italian or Argentinian national team in the future. "It's too early to think of it," Hugo says, smiling. During this year, a great relationship has been born between us. He is like an older brother to me.
This game – a home derby, you might say – will finish our annual One Team project. I didn't know any of the participants when we started the project, but I felt comfortable from the very beginning. It was amazing to see guys who had never played basketball before learn it, enjoy themselves, and improve as people. It has been a great life experience!
Enjoy the rest of the EuroLeague season!