F4 History: 1992, A triumph of exiles

Mar 01, 2002 by Euroleague.net Print
Partizan parties Partizan parties
Istanbul, Turkey
For the 1991-92 season, FIBA changed the competition system to allow up to three teams from some countries into the top European competition. After two eliminatory rounds, 16 teams were divided into two groups of 8 teams each. Yugoslavia, at war with Croatia, was officially represented by Partizan of Belgrade and, curiously enough, two Croatian teams: Cibona of Zagreb and Slobodna Dalmacia of Split, the new name of three-time defending champion Jugoplastika. Barred by FIBA from playing at home, those three teams all chose Spain for their "home games". Group A featured newcomers Knorr Bologna and Phonola Caserta of Italy, Cibona, Olimpique Antibes of France and Kalev Talin of Estonia. In group B, some familiar faces like those of Philips, Partizan and Aris met newcomers Joventut and Estudiantes of Spain, and Maes Pils Malinas of Belgium. The teams which advanced to the quarterfinals were Knorr (10-4), Barcelona (10-4), Maccabi (10-4) and Cibona (9-5) from Group A, Joventut (11-3), Estudiantes (10-4), Philips (10-4) and Partizan (9-5) from Group B. Curiously, all the quarterfinal winners came from Group B, Philips and Joventut taking 2-0 sweeps against Barcelona and Cibona, respectively, while Partizan and Estudiantes needed three games to get rid of Knorr and Maccabi. At the Final Four, played in Istanbul from April 14 to 16, Partizan beat Philips for the third time in the season, while the Spanish duel was solved in favur of Joventut against Estudiantes. In the final, and against all odds, Partizan defeated the Catalan team by 71-70 with a memorable three-pointer on the buzzer by Sasha Djordjevic. The other heroe of the game was Predrag Danilovic, the best scorer of the final with 25 points.

Interview: Predrag Danilovic of Partizan
Predrag Danilovic
Danilovic in 1992 Final

The finest success in Partizan's history - the European club title - came on April 14, 1992 in Istanbul. It was really an achievement, especially considering that the average age of Partizan's players that season was 21.7 years. What's more, due to war that year, Partizan played only one of its European games on its homecourt in Belgrade. Partizan vice-president Predrag Danilovic, then 22, recalled how FIBA had ordered all the teams from Yugoslavia to play their games abroad. Partizan opted for the Madrid suburb of Fuenlabrada. It would be a providential choice. Partizan lost only one "home" game in Fuenlabrada all season. And when it met a Spanish team, Joventut Badalona, in the title game, Danilovic was ready with 25 points. Even then, it took a race downcourt in the final seconds and a miraculous three-pointer by Sasha Djordjevic to give Partizan its first European crown.

What was your "home away from home" like that year?

"Great little Fuenlabrada. It was the right choice. After the first game in the European league and the warm welcome of the Spanish public it became clear that we had found our second home there. It was hard to travel, but we were like the family. We lost only one 'home' game in Fuenlabrada - against Estudiantes of Madrid. So actually, they played at home, not us."

The only game you played in Belgrade was against Knorr in quarterfinals?

"It was the ultimate obstacle before the Final Four. The Bolognese were a strong team but we entered the game convinced that we had to win. We couldn not lose and we won."

Those were the real heavyweight fights to get to Istanbul?

"Those were two of the heaviest games in my entire career, two of the heaviest games in my life. Knorr had a phenomenal team, and they played hard on defense. We had to win the first game in Bologna but we didn't have luck. Two days later we prevailed and secured a place at the Final Four."

Later that year you signed a contract with Knorr. Did you made a deal during those two games in Bologna?

"Oh no. Don't even think it! I had a different sports education. In my mind, there was only concern then, Partizan's success. Maybe they noticed me there, but we talked about the contract much later, after we won European league title."

Many people said that Partizan came to Final Four as the outsider?

"To be an outsider was the suitable position for us. But we didn't think we were outsiders, really. Actually, in that moment we were not aware of the importance of the event. All of us became aware that we made history much later, when we became respected all over Europe. I still remember Djordjevic's buzzer-beater behind the three-point line and my MVP title. Sweet memories..."