For the first time, this season's qualifiers for the Euroleague Basketball Adidas Next Generation Tournament supported One Team, Euroleague Basketball's social responsibility program, with a series of special events at every venue.
Qualifiers for the ANGT – Europe's top youth competition, which reaches its climax at the Final Four in May – have been taking place all over the continent. The first One Team event at the qualifiers was in Valencia in December, when participants from Asindown, a local organization that supports people with Downs Syndrome, were invited on court to join halftime activities together with ANGT players.
The next qualifier was staged in Munich, where host club FC Bayern included players from its One Team program during the pregame presentation for the last game and again during the halftime interval.
"The One Team activity was very good," Víctor Luengo, Marketing Director and One Team Manager for Valencia, said. "The involvement of players from different teams and the joy of the project's components made it a very fun activity. The public was there and could see live what the kids have learned."
General Manager Marko Pesic commented: "We always aim to integrate the group from OBA München (our One Team group) into different activities and projects , so when we organised the ANGT qualifier in Munich it was obvious for us that we should enable them to be part of that.
"It is important for us that our youth team players face issues such as social inclusion. We believe this has a real social impact, not only on the participants of OBA München but also on our youth players and our club in general. We are not only here to win game or trophies: as a club, we also have a social responsibility, especially in our home town of Munich."
Next stop was Kaunas, which also saw a special halftime activity during the final game as members of Zalgiris's One Team sessions played a game of integrated wheelchair basketball alongside players from the ANGT teams.
The intention was to show spectators and players the importance of equality, empathy and inclusion, said Akvile Dagilyte, Zalgiris's Communications Director and One Team Manager: "The idea of including One Team within the ANGT was great. It was very important for One Team participants to have a chance to play with real basketball players in the big arena, and they were very happy to be a part of it.
"It was also a great experience for ANGT players to be involved, especially giving them a chance to try out a new form of the game – integrated wheelchair basketball. This drew their attention to the importance of equality, cohesion and empathy within communities. The young players were happy to get involved, willingly joined the session, and gave their best efforts to bring a win to their teams!"
The ANGT qualifiers concluded last weekend in Belgrade, which was preceded by a sports conference that included a panel discussion on the theme of social responsibility within the industry. The One Team activities during last season's Final Four in Belgrade were presented, and the event was attended by representatives of Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade – General Manager Filip Sunturlic and One Team Coach Ivan Pavlopvic – and Special Olympics Serbia Director Aleksandar Stanojevic. That was followed by another on-court event during halftime of the qualifier's final game.
"As a long-time partners of Euroleague Basketball, we used this event and saw it as another opportunity to promote all these values to our community," Sunturlic said. "The feedback was great from all participants and spectators at the qualifier. In the future, we will use every opportunity to strengthen our bond with Special Olympics and the One Team program."
Now, planning is underway for more activities as the ANGT moves towards its exciting conclusion in Vitoria-Gasteiz in May – with everything designed to spread the vital message: We are all One Team.
One Team, supported by Turkish Airlines as the One Team Founding Patron and with the collaboration of Special Olympics as Proud Partner, uses basketball to achieve real social impact in our communities.
Since its founding in 2012, the One Team program has reached already directly and indirectly 16,000 participants through its various team projects.