THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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Tue, 25th January, 2011 - Posted by
Sabonis at the “Berlin ITB”, held 9 – 13 March
In Lithuania, basketball has an almost religion-like status and a big part of the population considers hosting a EuroBasket an once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In this context, it's easy to understand why the EuroBasket 2011 official ambassador needed to be a "larger than life" figure. Luckily, figures -Lithuanian or otherwise- don't come any bigger than that of Arvydas Sabonis.
The basketball legend who revolutionized the game in the 80's, when he showed the world that a big (2.22m big to be precise) player could pass the ball like a point guard and shoot from long range even better than one, was the automatic choice when the LOC and FIBA Europe asked themselves who better personifies Lithuania and EuroBasket 2011.
Sabonis, in his capacity as the official ambassador has been promoting the event all over Europe since late October. "This is a big day for our country, after 72 years basketball is coming back to Lithuania",
"We built five new arenas, EuroBasket is very important for our young players and for all Lithuanians, for us basketball is like a second religion."
Arvydas Sabonis was in Berlin, Germany
promoting Lithuania and EuroBasket 2011
at the “Berlin ITB”, held 9 – 13 March,
which is one of the largest World Tourism Fairs in the world
Photo courtesy of Vilija Turiene www.inviabaltic.lt
When asked what he thought of Spain, Turkey, Great Britain and Poland (plus the second team to come out of the Additional Qualifying Round) being drawn in the same group with the host country, he smiled and said "of course our group is a little bit tough, but what happened, happened."
As someone who has four Eurobasket medals in his collection (one Gold, one Silver, two Bronze) and was named European player of the year on six different occasions, Sabonis is well qualified to speak of Lithuania's chances in the tournament.
"Last year we had a new team, now we have the chance to make it even stronger with young players and with some others that couldn't play because of injury,"
Sabonis is a man of few words. As one of the biggest players in the history of the game, he knows it's actions that count. To that effect, he has done more than his fair share to bring to prominence some of these young players he's talking about. The Sabonis Basketball School was founded in 1994 and its mission is to teach young players the fundamentals of the game. Last year alone, as many as 800 promising students attended the program in the school's state of the art centre. School graduates include Lithuania internationals Martynas Andriuskevicius, Jonas Maciulis or Paulius Jankunas.
It's all part of the vision Sabonis has for both his country and basketball, a vision that will be fulfilled when EuroBasket 2011 tips off on 31st August. It's obvious the official ambassador can hardly wait: "We want the whole of Europe to see how we live here, how we love basketball," he says with expectation.
Information courtesy of EuroBasket 2011
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