One Team was at the forefront of the action in Belgrade during the Final Four weekend, with a series of special events taking place in support of Euroleague Basketball’s social responsibility program.
The busy schedule tipped off on Wednesday afternoon at the Aleksandar Nikolic Hall with a welcome session for the volunteers who had given their time to make sure all the week’s events ran smoothly.
The volunteers were treated to a special welcome from Euroleague Ambassadors Joe Arlauckas and Dusko Savanovic, along with local players Branko Lazic and Ognjen Dobric of Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and Mihajlo Andric of Partizan NIS Belgrade.
Long-time One Team supporter Arlauckas said: “This welcome session is a great way to show our utmost appreciation for the people behind the scenes who don’t get any publicity, and also a way to motivate them and get them excited for all the events which will take place over the weekend.”
Zvezda guard Dobric added: “It was a lot of fun to spend some time with the volunteers, who have an important part to play in the Final Four. One Team needs people like this to make sure the activities work well and we have been very happy to meet them today.”
Next up was a special ambassadors’ session and exhibition game, which was open for the public to enjoy at the FanZone at Kalemegdan Fortress on Friday morning.
A group of 15 participants from the Partizan NIS Belgrade One Team program were joined by a host of famous names who supported the Final Four by serving as Euroleague Basketball Ambassadors: Arlauckas, Savanovic, Ibrahim Kutluay, Theo Papaloukas, Sergio Scariolo, Ramunas Siskauskas, Matjaz Smodis, Kostas Tsartsaris, Mirsad Turkcan, Nikola Vujcic.
Together with the local youngsters, the ambassadors celebrated the fantastic positive impact that One Team is having in local communities across the continent, with all 40 clubs in this season's Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and 7DAYS EuroCup using the power of basketball to change lives.
After starting off with a series of activities emphasizing the importance of working together as a team, the ambassadors and the One Team participants joined together for an action-packed exhibition game to entertain the crowd, which included Euroleague Basketball President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu.
“It is a great event, except for us who need to lose some kilos!” Savanovic joked afterwards. “It is huge for the kids, and you can see it on their faces. It is a new type of life for them, which they would never be able to experience without this type of event.”
“You can see in the kids’ eyes that everybody is happy to be with us,” Turkcan added. “EuroLeague has done this for a lot of years and I appreciate that.”
Finally, One Team was back on center stage at the FanZone on Saturday morning, when all four competing teams at the Final Four were represented by a pair of players for a session with Special Olympics, the proud partner of the One Team program.
Victor Khryapa and Kyle Hines from CSKA Moscow were joined by Luigi Datome and Ahmet Duverioglu from Fenerbahce Dogus Istanbul, Dino Radoncic and Santi Yusta from Real Madrid, and Axel Toupane and Paulius Valinskas from Zalgiris Kaunas.
The players took an active role in a fun session with Special Olympics children who have taken part in this season’s One Team program with Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade, and Khryapa said: “It is not just about teaching the children to play basketball. It is to show them that we are supporting them, to make them feel good, enjoy it, and teach them something to use in everyday life.”
“We had a lot of fun with the Special Olympic kids,” Duverioglu noted. “It is a nice event to spend time with the kids and give them something to remember and enjoy this special moment with them. To see them enjoying, happy and smiling – that’s the best part about it.”
The busy schedule of events in Belgrade showed once again exactly how the power of basketball can be used to improve people’s lives, rounding off another great season with a simple message: we are all One Team.