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The world’s biggest basketball organization after the NBA, and named as Turkish Airlines Euroleague, the competition is starting the new season on October 20.
In the first round of matches that start on October 20th and continue to December 23rd, a total of 24 teams representing 13 European countries are going to compete to go to the next round. Spain has high hopes this year with five teams in this challenging league, all eyeing the championship. Turkey will be represented again by Efes Pilsen and Fenerbahçe Ülker.
In the C Group, Fenerbahçe Ülker will be pitted against Barcelona (Spain), Montepaschi Siena (Italy), Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania), Cibona (Croatia) and Cholet (France) in the first round. Last year’s European champions, Barcelona is of course tipped as the group favorite. Siena meanwhile, Italy’s most stable team in recent years, stands out for its experience. But Lietuvos Rytas, which puts together strong teams with unknown players and always plays excellent basketball on its home court, should not be underestimated.
There are known names like Lithuanian team member Bjelica, who donned a Croatian uniform in the World Championship, and Kenan Bajramovich, whom we followed earlier on Türk Telekom, as well as Newley and Cemal Nalga, who played for Beşiktaş last year. Another detail worth noting is that Turkish coach Erman Kunter is training Cholet, also in the group. And with Croatian coach Neven Spahija heading Fenerbahçe Ülker, players Roko Ukich and Marko Tomas’s visit to their old team Cibona looks like being very interesting.
Efes Pilsen is in the D Group, which also includes two veterans of the last ten years’ Final Four: CSKA Moscow and Panathinaikos. Besides these two powerful teams, who finished the Russian and Greek leagues as champions, Spain’s Power Valencia, Italy’s Armani Jeans Milan, and Slovenia’s Union Olimpija will be the other obstacles in Efes Pilsen’s way. Changing its coach and bringing Velimir Perasovich to the head of its strong squad, Efes Pilsen is going to take on Valencia, probably for third place.
But Efes’s name and experience are enough to set pulses racing in Europe. The Spanish team has lost its coach, Spahija, to Fenerbahçe and some of its key players to its competitors. And it’s anybody’s guess how quickly new trainer Manuel Hussein and the Americans Omar Cook, Jeremy Richardson and James Augustine, as well as Serbian Savanovich and Lithuanian Javtokas, all of whom arrived during the transfer period, are going to adapt to their new team. Efes Pilsen is determined to take advantage of the situation and not come up short against Armani Jeans and Olimpija, which could be considered the group’s weak links. The Navy Blue-White team was deprived in the preparatory period of players Ender Arslan, Kerem Gönlüm, Cenk Akyol, Sinan Güler and Bostjan Nachbar, all of whom were sweating it out for their national teams in the World Championship, and will therefore need a little time.
The Turkish teams look like being good enough to get through the first round and into the second, the ‘Top 16’. Let’s see if they have the stamina to make it to the Final Four, to be held in Barcelona in May. We shall see...
HAMDI TOPÇU, TURKISH AIRLINES’ CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD AND OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
“After great partnerships with Barcelona FC and Manchester United, two of the most important football brands, it is a privilege for us to partner with the Euroleague, one of world’s most prestigious basketball organizations and Europe’s biggest basketball league. The Euroleague title sponsorship is a strategic step in reinforcing the strength and value of our brand in the global platform.
As a consequence of all the investments in our brand the glamour of Turkish Airlines will reach its peak very soon. This partnership is also important as it will enable us to establish a more effective communications between our brand and potential clients in Europe, a market that brings the highest revenue in which THY flies to more than 70 destinations.”
JORDI BERTOMEU, EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL CEO
“We have been working for a long time to find the right title partner that could satisfy not only the economic value of becoming a title sponsor but becoming a partner, with a commitment to the growth of basketball across the globe. We feel satisfied to have reached this agreement and to join forces with Turkish Airlines on what we consider as an integrated partnership model.
We feel that Turkish Airlines is a perfect fit as title partner for the competition, not only for the track record in committing to professional sports across the continent, but also through our mutual commitment to developing activities off the court. This agreement will enable Euroleague Basketball to make progress on four fronts: institutional, commercial, promotional and social. The international vision and globalization that we have at Euroleague Basketball is shared fully by Turkish Airlines and its managers, which makes this agreement a milestone in the history of the sport of basketball.”
REACTIONS FROM EUROLEAGUE BOARD MEMBERS:
CSKA Moscow President & CEO Andrey Vatutin:
“A long contract with a well-known, serious company is certainly a breakthrough in the Euroleague’s marketing activity. I am sure that this is the first big step in the competition’s strategic development plan to globalize the Euroleague Basketball brand. The support from a title sponsor as Turkish Airlines adds authority and credibility to our competition.”
Caja Laboral president Josean Querejeta:
“First of all, I would like to say that it is great news to have a title sponsor such as Turkish Airlines, a well-known, consolidate company. It also shows that the Euroleague is working really well and I am sure other companies will be interested on the competition soon. Agreements like this backs an emerging project, acclaimed throughout the continent. I would like to congratulate Turkish Airlines and all Euroleague Basketball fans for this agreement.”
Montepaschi Siena president Ferdinando Minucci:
“The partnership with Turkish Airline is a very important one for the Euroleague. It will give great support to the competition and will play a leading role in promoting the image of the top European competition.”
ABOUT EUROLEAGUE BASKETBALL:
Euroleague is the Europe’s premier basketball competition.The competition features 24 clubs from 12 or more countries per season and crowns its champion each spring at the Euroleague Final Four, one of the signature events of European sports. During the 2009-10 season, Euroleague Basketball was seen in 197 countries across the globe and features some of the world’s most prestigious players.