Thoughts of the Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four were in the air Wednesday in Milan, Italy, where Euroleague stars were joined by football greats for a shootout in the city center to herald the arrival of European basketball’s showcase event in May.
The Municipality of Milan hosted the event at Piazza Città di Lombardia, the largest covered square in Europe, located near Stazione Centrale. With the help of Euroleague sponsor Spalding, a basket was raised on the site for the friendly competition between eight basketball stars and football legends representing the city's iconic clubs and the Euroleague's most successful team this century.
"The aim of every professional playing in all sports is to reach the best, so the final is the best thing to have a shot at getting a trophy," former AC Milan legend Stefano Eranio said at the event. "I was very lucky to be here today so I can play with these giants, and I'd like to say to everybody to please join us so you can watch all the best players in the Final Four."
EA7 Emporio Armani Milan players CJ Wallace and David Moss joined their rivals from Panathinaikos Athens, James Gist and Jonas Maciulis – the latter a former Milan player – to entertain the fans along with FC Inter Milan legends Francesco Toldo and Riccardo Ferri and former AC Milan stars Daniele Massaro and Eriano.
For the shootout, Wallace and Moss teamed with Toldo and Eranio to make up Team Milan; Team Athens consisted of Gist, Maciulis, Massaro and Ferri.
"I didn’t win the knockout game so I'm a little down on myself, but we had a lot of fun and there was a lot of stuff going on," Wallace said. "We had a great day with a couple of football legends and I think the fans had a lot of fun. Get your tickets for the Final Four in Milan – it’s going to be a great time, with a bunch of events like this set up and hopefully in May the sun will be shining."
City Council member Mrs. Chiara Bisconti and AC Milan Vice President & CEO Mr. Adriano Galliani were among the local dignitaries that attended the event, which was visited by scores of fans.
"For Milan this is a great opportunity. We will live a full month dedicated to basketball." Mrs. Bisconti said. "The whole city will be involved. In the weekend in the Piazza Duomo, which is the heart of Milan, there will be the Fan Zone so everybody will be involved in the spirit of such an important event. We are also arranging some training sessions for young players. We can say that the whole town will be involved, matching the important basketball tradition that the city of Milan has."
"It's a great honor that Euroleague has its Final Four in our city, and it will be wonderful to see the best four teams in Europe here," Mr. Galliani. "I watch nearly every Euroleague game of Milan, and as a great fan of the team it's a dream to be able to see Milan in the Final Four."
After the pros had their turns, the fans got chances to compete too, with Euroleague prizes handed out to the winners. Let the countdown to the 2014 Turkish Airlines Euroleague Final Four begin; only 11 weeks to the day of this shootout, teams will be landing in Milan to compete for continental glory!
"It’s the fulfilment of a dream," Mr. Ferri said. "If you're at the final, it means that you've reached the highest possible professional level. In my case, I had the opportunity to play two UEFA Cup finals and it was an immense satisfaction and a chance to enter into history."