Since retiring from the playing arena five years ago, Ramunas Siskauskas has put his status as a Euroleague Basketball Legend to work for the good of One Team participants all across the continent. The MVP of the 2008 Final Four and two-time champion has not limited his goodwill to his native Lithuania. Recently, he travelled to Madrid to take part in the unveiling of a new community court that One Team and Stay in the Game, the corporate social responsibility programme of Dogus Group, collaborated in refurbishing, marking the fourth country in which they have given local youths a place to call their own.
"You know, we really had fun in Madrid. We enjoyed the event very much, me especially!" Siskauskas said after he got back home. "I could see the happy faces on the children. They like it. It's a great idea for them and for everybody. And when I see children happy, I am happy, too."
The idea of a refurbished community court hit home for Siskauskas, who understands from his own experience what such a gesture means to young people.
"I'm a little bit different than other players, because I learned basketball in the street first," he said. "I had a couple of outdoor courts I would go to, and those courts meant for me everything. I spent all my free time there, after finishing lessons at school. I got the ball and went there right away with my friends. If children have basketball, football or anything, it's a good way to spend their free time, and not to walk in the streets not knowing what to do. This is a good way to find something positive for yourself."
Finding the positive for at-risk groups has been the theme of One Team from its founding early this decade, and Siskauskas has been a believer from the beginning.
"The first time I heard about this project, I believed that the goal will be reached," he says. "God created all of us equal, and One Team is a very good chance to show that, by involving everybody: people, children, kids, players. I'm very happy that this project became a reality and it shows everybody that people are equal and everybody can enjoy doing things, playing and talking together."
The international impact of One Team is of particular importance to Siskauskas.
"The more we do it in different countries, the more popular the program and basketball will be," he said. ."It lets people everywhere show that not only soccer, which we know is most popular sport in the world, but basketball and the EuroLeague are doing very good things and making our sport more popular all over the world."
Another aspect of One Team that Siskauskas appreciates is the chance for him and other stars to give back to communities everywhere.
"It's good for legends to show they are regular people, like everyone. no matter what we reached, in this case a high level in basketball, we can cheer and be like everyone else. I think this is important also for people with problems, that they can see these legends live, not only on TV or in newspapers. They can talk to them and play with them. I am happy we are involved and can see all the kids and other people who we travel to see in their cities."