Milan, Zalgiris also awarded for their projects
The winners of the annual One Team Awards have been announced, and Olympiacos Piraeus has been unveiled as the recipient of the main prize while Adam Waczynski was named winner of the inaugural Best One Team Ambassador award.
One Team, founded in 2012 with the backing of Turkish Airlines and enjoying the long-time proud partnership of Special Olympics, is Euroleague Basketball’s social responsibility program, which sees clubs from all over Europe use the power of basketball to support vulnerable members of their local communities.
The 2020-21 season saw many clubs improve their programs despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced clubs to find new ways of connecting with their One Team participants. The achievements of the last year and plans for the future have all been discussed at the One Team Annual Workshop including the presentation of the awards.
“I would like to thank all the participating teams for their commitment to this program. Last season we were all tested by the global circumstances and One Team perfectly symbolizes the capacity to overcome difficulties with hard work and solidarity,” stated Jordi Bertomeu, Euroleague Basketball CEO. “Congratulations to all the awarded programs and I would like to invite you all to enjoy the celebrations we will stage this season for the tenth anniversary of One Team.”
The awards announced by the judges were One Team Bronze Program: Zalgiris Kaunas; One Team Silver Program: AX Armani Exchange Milan; One Team Gold Program: Olympiacos Piraeus.
Penelope Giovanovits, One Team Manager from Olympiacos, said: “We are really happy to win the gold One Team award, but what really makes us glad is that in our tenth year we can keep learning and growing. Using that knowledge to change lives is the biggest award any of us can get. Congratulations to all the clubs because they made incredible efforts and achievements throughout a challenging period.”
Zalgiris One Team Manager Akvile Dagilyte commented: “It feels so good to be among the top three clubs. All the clubs made a great effort in such difficult circumstances. And the real reward is that we, together with all clubs, managed to achieve a great impact in our local communities in this difficult time. And this was the time when our communities needed the One Team program the most.”
Michele Samaden, One Team Manager for AX Armani Exchange Milan, added: “We are very happy about this award, which we share with all the children and teachers at the Baroni School, our partner Laureus and our ambassadors Gigi Datome and Kyle Hines. It has been a difficult season but the desire to help our children has given us the motivation to stay close to them in a different way. It is a great satisfaction to have been able to improve every year the program, which has become richer in content that can really change lives.”
The other teams named on the initial shortlist for the awards were Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz, Mincidelice JL Bourg en Bresse, Unicaja Malaga and Zenit St Petersburg.
The very first One Team Ambassador Award was also presented, recognising the great work carried out by players of both 7DAYS EuroCup and Turkish Airlines EuroLeague clubs as they get involved with the weekly activities organized by their clubs.
Adam Waczynski, former player of Unicaja Malaga, was named the winner, and he said: “I feel emotional to win this award. I’m very happy because all the kids have done a great job adapting to the circumstances during the pandemic. I can see how they have evolved, not only in basketball but also in life values. For me, when I help these kids I feel it in my blood and my heart. Every time we were together it gave me so much joy and love. I would encourage any player to work with One Team because each minute we spend with kids means the world to them, even if it’s just to chat for a few minutes. It might only be a small thing for us, but it’s a big thing for the kids. And the more people that think this way, the more beautiful the world can be.”
A special Judges Award for the best newcomer was presented to EuroCup club Mincidelice JL Bourg en Bresse, and Club President Julien Desbottes said: “Bourg and Euroleague Basketball share the same vision for basketball. It is a 360 degree vision, not only what happens on the court but the values we can share with everyone, and this is embodied by One Team. So this award is very important for our club and represents the quality and rigor that we try to have outside the basketball court.”