Volunteers are the backbone of any Final Four. It starts for them, days in advance, with a big meeting where they receive general instructions and are given assignments for more specific training before the big event.
Four of the twelve volunteers assigned to competition-related tasks – Adrian, Unai, Abril and Claudia (left to right, with arms raised) – are assigned with cleaning the court during games, one of the most coveted spots among all volunteers. "It was one of the highlights of the weekend," Adrian says. "I had been there to see some games before, but walking on the floor for the first time made me go a little nuts."
Semifinals Friday arrives. Abril, Claudia and Unai chill in the volunteers tent outside Fernando Buesa Arena, waiting for their training. "I couldn't sleep at all last night!" says Abril, anxious to get onto the floor.
Left to right: Claudia, from Vitoria, is a scorekeeper, a youth coach, and a basketball player. Unai, 16, has played for years and is a youth coach, too. He also officiated some 3 on 3 games at the FanZone. Abril, a basketball referee, is also from Vitoria. Abril and Claudia are friends who registered as volunteers separately. They met while Abril was officiating a game for which Claudia kept score. Adrian, 21, is a coach from Bilbao. He stays in a rented apartment in Vitoria during the Final Four.
Time for training. The quartet joins Javier, the volunteers coordinator, on the way to Fernando Buesa Arena. It's rainy and windy in Vitoria but these four volunteers don't mind.
As Abril and Claudia change into official clothes, Unai, Adrian and Javier chat about basketball in the corridors of the arena. Javier has participated in several Final Fours already, so Unai and Adrian want to hear all about it.
The arena is dressed up for the big games, eliciting "oohs!" and "aahs!" from the time to court cleaners. But there's no waste. Their schedule is tight, so Javier starts explaining the drills of working the mop. Timings and procedures must be respected in order for these volunteers to do their job properly and not disturb the game.
Javier shows the art of working the mop on the floor, the correct position and proper way to make it turn fast and efficiently. The students pay attention.
The floor lines are always a main reference point of the procedure to make sure that no parts of the floor are left uncleaned.
Claudia gives it her hesitant first try on the Fernando Buesa Arena floor.
Abril is the one to bring up the most doubts and questions. She just wants to make sure she does her job properly!
Training complete! This is one of the last times the four will get to be together while on duty. They will be separated in pairs: Adrian and Abril behind one basket and Claudia and Unai behind the other. The semifinals are barely a couple of hours away!
Exactly one hour and 45 minutes before tip-off, it's time to make a first run on the floor to get it as clean as possible. The teams will start appearing soon to stretch, take some shots and get acquainted with the court where they will play for the EuroLeague title during the weekend.
The Final Four is not just the four big games. Other activities at Fernando Buesa Arena include a game with media members and another with VIP ticket buyers. These are official Final Four events, so the mops will be needed as well. This time, however, the sweepers can pair with whoever they like, so Adrian and Unai will be together on Saturday morning.
Unai and Adrian sit and watch the media game in a huge, empty arena. The Saturday games are not open to the public.
These games are more relaxed than the official EuroLeague ones, so Adrian and Unai talk about games that they have seen in this arena and share some memories from the night before in the semifinals.
The two friends, Claudia and Abril, get to sit together for these Saturday games. With no noise from the stands they can also get to chat, share memories from the night before, and be a little more relaxed. "When the semifinals started" Abril recalls, "Jan Vesely took my mop and cleaned the floor himself! I didn't know what to do or say so I let him just grab it!"
The media and VIP games on Saturday are relaxed atmospeheres and there's time for jokes and laughs, so Abril and Claudia can take it a bit easier. It definitely helps after having gone to bed late last night and having to get up early this morning!
At halftime of the media game, all four sweepers take the floor. They have done it a few times already, and it shows: they know the drill and the moves, and their coordination is getting close to coreography!
Adrian and Unai go back to their basket, the one in front of the media tribune, after finishing another pass on the Fernando Buesa Arena floor.
Gustavo Ayon of Real Madrid walks back to the floor, ready to keep on playing the Third Place Game, while Unai and Claudia hurry off to make sure no sweat stays on the wood!
Another duty for the Final Four sweepers is to mind the ball carts for team warm-ups before and between games. They have to take them on and off the floor when required. As players get ready for the second half, Unai gets to stand next to a basketball mastermind, Zeljko Obradovic of Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul.
On the other end of the court, Abril also watches for the ball cart as the Fenerbahce players get ready for the second half against Real Madrid.
Sometimes the game resumes faster than anticipated and it becomes a moment where the only thing Adrian can do is run off the floor as fast as possible in order not to interfere with the action.
The Final Four gets to the final moments and these bent and broken mops bear witness to the hard work done by Adrian, Abril, Claudia and Unai in an experience they will treasure forever. "I was utterly impressed," Adrian recalls. "Especially with the huuuge organization behind it all in order for 10 guys to play a basketball game."