Do you remember that tournament that FIBA organized in Malaga in which Unicaja managed to qualify to play in the BCL this season? More than a tournament for professional teams, that seemed like a competition for neighborhood teams due to the low level that was seen in the Carpena. Those days we read reports prior to the competition, speaking even well of the teams against which the team from Malaga was going to face off. It was a great journalistic job, since it must not have been easy to find information about those teams and their players.
Those chronicles got us to have some respect for what we were going to find. Much more because what Unicaja had shown in previous years in this BCL did not make you think anything positive. The fact that the team was almost completely new, gave you some confidence in seeing a change. But you had no certainty since changes were already made in previous years without any success.
When we saw the matches we could see that they were laughable matches, that Unicaja could win even playing with four. But we also saw a certain radical change with respect to Unicaja in recent seasons, a positive change.
From that third-class competition, the best memory I have was that, despite the fact that Ibon Navarro and his team were absolutely certain that they had no rival and that they would win each game with solvency, the coach made the decision to concentrate the team the night before playing the final match, which gave a place to play the BCL.
Many would wonder why concentrate the team when they know that this final was a mere formality. And they were right. We all knew, rivals included, that even playing badly Unicaja was going to be champion. But the reason for concentrating the team was none other than a demonstration by the coach to his team that this BCL was very important. And it was for the club, since the prestige of continuing to compete in Europe was at stake. Also because there was a lot of money at stake. But I think that the highest percentage of that importance was because Unicaja could win the title. It was marked in red by Ibon Navarro and his players on Friday, May 12, the day the BCL Final Four was played.
Since that time, the team has continued to show tremendous respect for this competition. It is as if it were the maximum objective for them because it was the only title of the three that they were going to play during the season that they could have a real chance of winning. Later, the basketball that Navarro’s men have done made them win the Copa del Rey in Badalona. But I doubt that this competition was marked as a priority for this team. Where they saw blood from the get-go was in this BCL.
They have met that goal of being in the Final Four with a very real chance of winning the title. And the club, along with the support of the institutions that have invested a lot of money, and the help of the unfortunate image that the Jerusalem fans gave in that third game of the playoff to get a ticket to the Final Four, have made this phase final is played in Malaga.
Well, that Friday May 12 is already there. The famous ‘D’ day marked by this team arrived. The semifinal of that competition arrives that, from the beginning, they had marked with a fluorescent marker. And, despite winning the Copa del Rey, the team has continued to show that this very important victory was not going to relax them, that their objective was still there and that they continued to put all their focus on qualifying for this Final Four.
Hapoel Jerusalem, Tenerife and German Baskets Bonn have also qualified. Without a doubt, the four best teams in the competition come together. Or those who have deserved it the most. All will have options to win the title in the final on Sunday. Each one has its virtues and its defects, although many more virtues than defects. Tenerife has the experience of dominating this competition in recent seasons and they have already won the title on more than one occasion. Hapoel has a very physical team full of proven players. Baskets Bonn is having an incredible season, dominating the German Euroleague teams and comes to Malaga with the illusion of being Cinderella and with the guarantee of playing very good basketball. But do you know what happens? That none of them have the Carpena factor in their favor. Only Unicaja will have this factor and I am convinced that it will be decisive and differential.
The BCL has not strengthened its Final Four as the event deserves. There are no announcements around town. If you walk through the Carpena today you will not see anything different from what you can see on any given day. But it doesn’t matter, the Malaga basketball fans know that the appointment is on Friday at 8:30 p.m.
And it’s very important for a reason. Unicaja has won the ACB in Vitoria, the Copa del Rey twice, once in Zaragoza and Badalona, the Korac Cup in Vrsac and the Eurocup in Valencia. No title has been won in Malaga with its fans. This may be the first. As I told you, I insist that I think the team was clear from the beginning that the BCL was their objective. It has been achieved that the title is played in Malaga. Now the fans cannot fail. I am sure that those who come to Carpena on Friday are going to enjoy watching their team’s basketball but knowing the importance of the game they have to play, knowing how to push from the stands, how to carry their players on their wings , how to support when things go wrong, how to put pressure on the rival without disrespect and in an exemplary manner.
The prize is double. On the one hand, a second title for Unicaja this season (in football this is called a double and is only within the reach of the greats). On the other hand, winning this title in Carpena with his people, celebrating it all together and that this celebration is transferred to the streets of the entire city.
But let’s go step by step. We didn’t want to celebrate before winning both games. The first of those steps will be on Friday against the Germans. Then we’ll see what the last stumbling block is. But let’s get ready to make history, to win a title for the first time in Malaga. Let’s not miss out on this unique opportunity, as you already know how difficult it is to win in basketball, let’s see if we are going to think that what we are experiencing this year will be repeated almost every season.
That being said, ‘D’ day arrived. Are you going to miss it?