Ioannis Papapetrou, Olympiacos: 'We need our fans more than ever'

Mar 06, 2018 by Ioannis Papapetrou - Piraeus, Greece Print
Ioannis Papapetrou, Olympiacos: 'We need our fans more than ever'

As you probably know, we come off a big road win against Panathinaikos. The Greek derby is always exciting to play and we all expected it to be close. We got the lead and felt like we had control of the game, but we should have been able to stop them from returning to the game the way they did. They got some defensive stops and turned them into transition baskets. We slowed down a lot on offense and not only allowed them to return to the game, but let them believe they could win the game. They forced overtime, but in the end, we were able to win.

Playing in OAKA is always different from anywhere else because of the environment, the atmosphere. You go there and feel that you have to be ready to battle. They have a really good home court and that atmosphere helps them protect it very well; Panathinaikos rarely loses at home, they beat most teams. It is very crucial to stay focused when you play there; that is the most important thing. You need to block everything out and just play the game. You have to concentrate and most of the time, it is more difficult to do that in an empty arena than in an atmosphere like the one we find at OAKA. I think, and I believe other guys will feel the same, that it is always better when you have someone to play against, in this case, thousands of fans cheering for the other team, putting pressure on you.

We just signed Bobby Brown, which is a great addition for us. He is very experienced and from what I have seen so far, a great guy, too. He can score and create for others, which is something we were missing. His experience is also a big boost for our team, so I think it is a big addition for us. The more good players we have, the better. We have a lot of players who can step up in every game and play well. It will be very tough for all of us to have a bad day. What makes this team strong is exactly that; any player can have a bad game, but somebody else will step up and cover for you, so that the team will be competitive. We have a lot of quality players and the more we have, the better. With the win against Panathinaikos, we qualified for the playoffs already, so the next goal is trying to get the home-court advantage in our series. We had bad losses, but also big wins, enough to challenge for this next goal. The good thing about the EuroLeague is that every game is usually more important than the previous one. We have six games left in the regular season and must approach each of them as if it is a final. We know how special it is for us to play in front of our fans. This is very important for us if we want to make it to the Final Four.

I had the luck to go to the Cool EuroLeague Show with my good friend Kostas Papanikolaou - and I had a lot of fun! It was amazing, one of the funniest experiences for me this year. It was a very different type of interview. We played games and did fun stuff. We didn't talk much about serious stuff, but Greek traditions and the things that we usually do. We did some fun activities and many different things in general. When we were done, the four hours we spent recording the show felt like nothing! We had the chance to meet the amazing Django, our man! We liked Bob B and Django a lot. They are very good guys and we are happy we had the chance to meet them. Django has the same sense of humor that we have; he is very straight up and I like people like that. He says everything he wants to say and doesn't hesitate to do it. Django is very funny - you know, Serbians and Greeks are like brothers!

We recorded the show in Barcelona, so we had the chance to go to El Clasico, the EuroLeague game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid at Palau Blaugrana. We got VIP tickets and everything - Kostas Papanikolaou has some history in Barcelona, played there and knows everybody. It was not a good game for Barcelona, of course, but they had just won the Copa del Rey and the pre-game atmosphere was great. It was good to watch the game with no pressure. You can tell the atmosphere was different from when we play at Palau Blaugrana. You can feel a different atmosphere, a different intensity, because it is El Clasico. The good thing is that it doesn't get out of control. Fans don't do things that can cost the team or anything like that, nothing dangerous. I loved the atmosphere.

Finally, I want to tell you about One Team. Being part of this program fills me with great emotion. It is great to see their happiness and the smiles on their faces when we practice or do exercises. We all are happy for an hour or two, and I really love it. It is special for me. We are basketball players, but also human beings, and being able to make people happy off the court, using basketball as a tool to give back to your community, is very important. Basketball is my life and I love playing it, it makes me happy, but using it to help others off the court is even better. Bringing smiles to other people's faces is a very powerful feeling and something I want to carry on doing. I don't think it is really connected to basketball, but it is true that if you feel good, you usually play good. After a One Team session, you go back home, think about it and the important things in life. By helping people, you are helping yourself, too, because you realize you are doing something good, and you are a better person.

We have four more games at home and two on the road - against CSKA and Unicaja, starting with this week's one against Bamberg. It is a home game and like I said, we have to protect our home court. I think we have done a good job so far of that this season, but now it is time to win each and every home game. Maybe winning those four home games will give us the home-court advantage in the playoffs and if we get it, winning all the home games will take us to the Final Four in Belgrade, which would be our next goal, of course. This is why we need our fans more than ever. We need their energy, their extra boost we get when we play in front of them. We must feed off their energy and try to get the next win, starting against Bamberg on Friday!