Last night at the O2 Arena in London, Olympiacos Piraeus successfully defended their Turkish Airlines Euroleague title after a thrilling final game against Spanish giants Real Madrid.

It was not easy. They started the season with many problems in the shadow of the ongoing economic crisis in Greece. In fact their arch rivals Panathinaikos Athens were facing similar problems. Both organizations had to reduce their budgets significantly and say goodbye to some important players before the 2012/13 basketball season tipped off. Maybe partly due to this fact, many basketball critics were expecting one or both of these Greek giants to fall short of the 2013 Euroleague Final Four. It was indeed the case for the green jerseys from Athens. However, Olympiacos had made their way to London after a long and struggling season. They had many up and downs in the group stages and almost fell short against Anadolu Efes Istanbul on their home court in Piraeus in a close quarter final encounter.

But here they were, joining the el clásico duo Real Madrid and Barcelona along with the natural favorites (somehow as usual) CSKA Moscow who they had beat in the final in Istanbul last year. Even though they were the defending champions, basketball pundits were still seeing them as the underdogs of the final four in London, just like they had done a year earlier in Istanbul! According to many authorities, CSKA and Real Madrid would easily make their ways into yesterday’s final and put on a big show for the basketball fans. The reason Barcelona were not considered in the picture was probably due to the injury nightmares they were having, including the ligament injury for the big man Jawai. I was not in the exact same mindset with a winner like Navarro on the team and they proved me right by creating big trouble for the arch rivals Real Madrid in the second semi final on Friday, almost ousting them. But let’s go back to our champions.

Olympiacos played great basketball in the semi final against CSKA, effectively stopping the dangerous weapons of the Russians, including Milos Teodosic and Viktor Khryapa. On top of that, they received some unexpectedly big contributions from role players Pero Antic and Kyle Hines. Led by the brilliant Vassilis Spanoulis, the team overcame CSKA and made the finals two years in a row.

Despite this great achievement, they started the final against Real Madrid as underdogs, once again. Many were thinking that Real Madrid’s task was eased as CSKA could not make it to face them in the final. However, once again everybody was underestimating Spanoulis and his friends, and of course “the system” and “the basketball culture and great  fans” which have always kept giving this Olympiacos organization the push they needed, even during hard times. And indeed, they showed us once again how important these are by overcoming a 17 point deficit against one of the best teams in Europe and bringing home the trophy for the second consecutive year, being the first team to achieve this since Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv that also won back to back titles in 2004 and 2005. Even though Spanoulis performed once again brilliantly last night even after not scoring any points in the first half, it’s hard to give most of the credit to him this time. Olympiacos showed a big team effort there, with contributions from every single player who hit the floor and from every single fan who were jumping up and down, shouting as much as they could in the O2 Arena. Congratulations to this great basketball organization! Keep the spirit going!


Category: English, Sports

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