On an uplifting spring morning in the city that hosts the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four this weekend, the family of Euroleague Basketball clubs and sponsors registered another proud moment by making it a day to remember for 60 children on the grounds of Istanbul Bahcelievler Social Services Campus – a centre for children without parents or from broken homes. One day before the tip-off of the season's pinnacle moment, the kids got a chance to hang out and play with Turkish Airlines Euroleague superstars dedicated to helping make basketball a positive impact on their lives.
Together they embodied the values of One Team, a project Euroleague Basketball has been developing for months with the valuable partnership of Turkish Airlines, the Founding Patron of the program, and eight Founding Partner Clubs: Alba Berlin, Anadolu Efes, CSKA Moscow, Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv, Olimpia Milano, Olympiacos Piraeus, Real Madrid and Unicaja. One Team reinforces social responsibility values and uses the power of basketball to integrate communities. On Thursday, the youngsters spent two hours getting involved in One Team drills, talking and shooting with some Euroleague stars on brand new baskets donated to the facility by Mondo, another Euroleague Basketball partner that is putting basketball at the service of enriching lives.
The event was just the start of how One Team will be part of the lives of the Children at the Bahcelievler Campus as an ongoing commitment from Founding Partner Club Anadolu Efes, (represented Thursday by players Dusko Savanovic and Dogus Balbay) means that the club will be working at the campus every week, all year. The One Team project of Anadolu Efes will have specially trained One Team Coaches, plus players from the club working with 15 to 20 children from Bahcelievler Campus at a time – taking them through an 8 to 10 week program that will help the children develop and grow in confidence. It is another example of how One Team, through its partner clubs and Founding Patron, Turkish Airlines, will reach directly into communities to positively affect the disadvantaged on a consistent and ongoing basis.
“Turkish Airlines has done really well in the aviation industry. In addition to our success in business, we like to be very successful in our corporate social responsibility projects,” CEO of Turkish Airlines, Mr. Temel Kotil, said in welcoming the esteemed guests. “I believe this is going to be a very successful project with One Team. We strongly believe in synergy, which also may be translated as productivity. We always support sports, but One Team is a very unique project in itself and projects as a single crystal producing. A diamond crystal actually starts from very small particle and grows into a diamond and we hope that this One Team project will grow in to a diamond with time. We are expecting gigantic crystals with help of our minor support.”
At Thursday's grand opening event, eight Final Four stars – CSKA Moscow’s Ramunas Siskauskas and Milos Teodosic, FC Barcelona Regal’s Marcelinho Huertas and Joe Ingles, Mike Batiste and Stratos Perperoglou of Panathinaikos, and Kyle Hines and Georgios Printezis of Olympiacos – also helped point the Bahcelievler Campus children toward a brighter future.
After helping conduct One Team drills, players handed out souvenirs, signed autographs and took photos with the kids to make it a day to remember for all. On site to greet the participants were dignitaries from Euroleague Basketball and its sponsors as well as the Istanbul political and sporting world.
“We are proud that this event kicks off our Final Four and also kicks off One Team, our social responsibility program here today in Istanbul at this campus,” Euroleague Basketball President and CEO, Mr. Jordi Bertomeu said in his address. “I wish to express my special gratitude to the players. We know you are now concentrating on the most important part of the season, which is of course the Final Four, so we therefore appreciate a lot that you are here with us this morning. You, the players, can prove how values of sport can impact positively in society. We are here because you are going to share these values with those kids. And because you are part of this legacy that we want to give to this community. Much thanks goes to the supporters of this program and our partners, Mondo. Turkish Airlines. Efes Pilsen. And the Turkish Basketball Federation. And for the kids, I am sure this is a unique day for you and you will enjoy very much the chance to play with these players. I hope that from this unique example you too will become great basketball champions.”
Joining Mr. Bertomeu were Minister of Family and Social Policies, Ms. Fatma Sahin; Governor of Istanbul, Mr. Huseyin Avni Mutlu; Deputy Mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mr. Huseyin Eren; Mayor of Bahcelievler, Mr. Osman Develioglu; and President of Turkish Basketball Federation, Mr. Turgay Demirel.
Minister of Family and Social Policies, Ms. Fatma Sahin:
"Istanbul was the European capital of culture in 2011, this year it is the European capital of sports and I would like to thank Euroleague Basketball for choosing Istanbul as the host city of the Turkish Airlines Final Four. From where I am standing this morning, I can see that basketball and sports is beyond the borders, it is one very universal reality. More important than winning and losing in basketball is the team spirit, just like in any other team sport. I believe that passing, winning, losing, sharing the happiness and sadness, and doing it in a peaceful and fraternal way is the most important feature of basketball. I can see that kids are experiencing all these feelings under your leadership, so my special thanks goes to the kids and players who are with us today. No success is coincidence, all the sacrifices you players have made to play at this level have been valuable, and we appreciate your efforts. If we give our children equal opportunity they will be successful. We have about 14,000 kids and we see them as roots. We try to give them equal opportunity so they can turn into trees and forests. I personally witnessed first hand that if we provide them opportunities, they will be successful and kids sitting in the back rows today will be seating in the front rows tomorrow."
Mayor of Bahcelievler, Mr. Osman Develioglu:
"It is a great honor to host everybody and to have a One Team project in our province of Bahcelievler. We are more than happy to have this activity start here in our province and I extend my gratitude to the Euroleague organization. I am sure the number of basketball lovers and players will rapidly increase because of these courts, not only on this campus but in the entire neighborhood. Thank you to Euroleague Basketball, to their partners and to the players who are making this possible."
CSKA Moscow guard Milos Teodosic:
“It is always nice to supports projects like One Team. We, the players, are the ones who should be an example, not only on the court but off the court as well. I am glad I was a part of this activity and I hope we will see more of it, and that the project will grow. It was just phenomenal to spend time on the court with these little kids."
Anadolu Efes guard Dogus Balbay:
"It is great that Euroleague Basketball, Turkish Airlines, Turkish Basketball Federation and Mondo all came together and created this project under the name One Team. They gave these little kids this basketball court, and a new program, so they can learn basketball, so they can play with each other and maybe give them love for basketball. It is great to see them running around. When they see Euroleague balls, they come up to us asking ‘hey, this is the original ball that you play with too.’ It is wonderful that they are so how happy to see all these star players here, and it is just great something like this has been organized. I really enjoyed sharing these moments with the kids and, hopefully, we will have even more events like this in the future."
Olympiacos forward Georgios Printezis:
"It is very important to organize projects like this because it is important to give happiness to those kids. We should make another push to bring kids closer to athletes because it is good for them, but it is also good for us. These children really like basketball players, I hope we will help them at least a little bit and it would definitely be good to do these projects more often during the year. For me, it is a great pleasure to be involved in One Team, especially because Euroleague organizes this event."