He had to battle hard to earn his reward, but once 2010-11 Sportingbet Euroleague Fantasy Challenge winner Ramon Pons of Spain reached the 2011 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four, he made sure to enjoy every bit of it. Ramon was our very special VIP guest all weekend long in an experience that culminated with the ultimate present for any Euroleague fan - stepping on court while the newly crowned champions of Panathinaikos Athens were celebrating. Ramon took pictures and above all, enjoyed the moment as one more player wearing a green jersey, as he told us in this Euroleague.net interview. "It is incredible how players celebrate after winning the Euroleague title. If you see it so close, in detail, it makes you feel you are part of the team and want to celebrate as much as them!" he said. "The moment I was on the floor was unforgettable. It sends chills down my spine. It is something you cannot really buy and I felt privileged to be there."
First and foremost, how did you like the experience?
"Well, first of all, it has been an unforgottable experience. A truly different way of being at the Final Four. Just going to the Final Four is great, as a fan, but having the chance to be on the floor when the winners are celebrating makes it incredibly special. I got there with the feeling that I earned my way there by winning the Fantasy Challenge. It was great to be there, really. It is hard to describe."
What do you remember about the moment you step on the court and Panathinaikos was celebrating?
"It is incredible how players celebrate after winning the Euroleague title. If you see it so close, in detail, it makes you feel you are part of the team and want to celebrate as much as them! Seeing them so happy, celebrating, was outstanding. Dimitris Diamantidis was really, really happy. He won the MVP and the Final Four MVP award so everyone in the media was around him. Zeljko Obradovic looks like a serious guy but he was happier than anyone. He is always focused and the image he gave in that moment was very different to what we are all used to seeing."
Did you meet a lot of players, especially from your team, Real Madrid? Did you take many pictures?
"I couldn't meet a lot of Madrid players because they were not around when I had the chance to talk to them. I was really close to Juan Carlos Navarro, however, at the Euroleague Awards Ceremony. I got to see Ksistof Lavrinovic, too, but I didn't have the chance to meet Madrid players. As for pictures, we took some with Panathinaikos players - Drew Nicholas, Nick Calathes, Antonis Fotsis... those that were available when taking a break from talking to the media!"
Now you have the challenge to defend your Fantasy Challenge title. Did that experience motivate you even more?
"Absolutely. I always played the game but I never thought I could win the big prize - and now I know it is possible. Of course, it is very difficult, you have to be lucky and all that, but I know I have chances to win, I have done it before - and I want to do it again. I wouldn't be the first player to win the Fantasy Challenge twice, after all."
Which were your personal highlights in the Final Four weekend?
"First of all, the basketball atmosphere - it was incredible. The color at the arena, especially with Maccabi and Panathinaikos fans cheering for their teams, was amazing. Second, how the Euroleague people dealt with me. Everyone treated me really, really well. And of course, the moment I was on the floor was unforgettable. It sends chills down my spine. It is something you cannot really buy and I felt privileged to be there."
Last but not least, how would you recommend the Fantasy Challenge after the experience you had at Palau Sant Jordi?
"Of course, winning is great and the prize is totally unbelievable, but the game itself is good enough for every basketball fan to play it. You live games with a different emotion - the fact that you have a player in a game makes it more special. It helps you to get to know new players and new teams. If you like basketball, Fantasy Challenge makes a Euroleague game even better."