The Perfumerías Avenida and the challenge of Constantinople

In the Women’s Euroleague Final Four, which takes place from today until Sunday at the Volkswagen Arena in Istanbul, Spanish basketball plays several tournaments in one. Alba Torrens (Yekaterinburg) will try to reach the six titles of Diana Taurasi and Lidia Gorlin, -on the podium with Uliana Semenova, the mythical record holder of the tournament with 11-, and Silvia Domínguez will fight for her fourth crown 10 years after her first conquest. Laura Nicholls (Fenerbahçe) also enters the fray, without Euroleague yet on her resume but with nine medals with the national team, one more than Alba and Silvia. In 2011, Torrens was the mvp and Domínguez the top scorer for Salamanca European champion. Since then, there has always been Spanish representation among the winners of the highest continental competition. In Constantinople, in addition to the international teams, which are joined by Maite Cazorla, Leo Rodríguez, Andrea Vilaró and Umi Diallo in the Salamanca team, there are also three national technicians on the benches. This Friday in the semifinals, Miguel Méndez’s Ekaterinburg against Víctor Lapeña’s Fenerbahçe (15.00, Tdp) and Roberto Íñiguez’s Perfumerías against Hungarian Sopron (20.00, Tdp) are measured.

Íñiguez, champion with Ros Casares in 2012 in his first experience leading a women’s team, will live his seventh Final Four with the fifth different club. The Perfumerías Avenida coach was chosen on Tuesday as the best coach of the course and his team, the youngest in the competition with an average of 24 years, arrives undefeated (8-0) to the title fight. But, consistent with his ideology, Íñiguez relativizes an award that he already received at the head of the Hungarian Sopron and the Russian Kursk. “My best title is the photo that the parents of some children in Alboraya gave me, when I started training, and what one of the mothers told me: that her son’s life had changed. That is the biggest title. Cups and medals rust, “says Íñiguez in conversation with EL PAÍS before leaving for Istanbul. “What fulfills me the most is finding myself players who thank me for what I contributed to them in their day. That is the point of training and I do not change it for anything. People forget about the other. Winning is fine, but just winning leaves a void. It motivates me more to make the players grow, ”says the 53-year-old coach from Vitoria, Pablo Laso’s fifth-year and desk companion at the San Viator school. “Just winning takes away a lot of things. That is very based on the ego and the person is in the other, which gives you fulfillment at work ”, he adds.

The road from Salamanca to the Final Four in Istanbul has two milestones led by Íñiguez: an appeal and a recognition. Who thinks of the players? If I can’t protect you from this calendar, I’m leaving. They are my family and I am not going to burden them, ”the coach claimed in January before a claustrophobic rhythm of matches that has eroded his squad. “There is no time. How and when do young players improve?” Explains Íñiguez, expanding the problem beyond the physical. “For young women, not everything is playing. You have to train, learn, improve … shooting, shooting dribbling with your non-dominant hand, footwork, defensive body posture, understanding the game, many things… In Europe, competition prevails. Compete and know how to compete, as soon as possible. That is also a value and it is important, but everything has to have a balance. That’s why I talked about taking care of the players and streamlining the schedules. I live that concern day by day ”, he adds. A restlessness mitigated by the empathic management of the group, marked by the recognition of the captain of the team: Silvia Domínguez. “One of the reasons why I am in Salamanca is because I wanted to train Silvia Domínguez again. It was one of the bastions of that Euroleague del Ros in 2012 and it means a lot to me, because of how he trains and how he works, on a day-to-day basis. It is an example for young women. It frustrates me to see her physically touched and I hope she can get closer to a good version to enjoy this Final Four. It is never erased ”, Íñiguez details.

10 years ago, in 2011, after four consecutive Spartak Moscow titles, the then Falcon Avenida touched the continental sky with the conquest of the Euroleague in Yekaterinburg, with Alba Torrens as mvp at 21 and Lucas Mondelo on the bench. Spanish women’s basketball ended almost two decades where the record at the club level had been a wasteland. Since Dorna Godella became champion twice in a row, in 1992 and 1993, against Dinamo Kiev and Como respectively (in the wake of the Olympic momentum and Perugia gold), no Spanish team had won the title. The apotheosis came the following year, in 2012, with the final between Ros Casares and Rivas Ecópolis, in which the luxurious Valencian project, led by Íñiguez, reached the fourth Spanish crown, the last to date.

Later, Alba Torrens began her emigrant journey in Turkey and Russia to enlarge her record with four more Euroleague (one with Galatasaray and three with Yekaterinburg, champions in three of the last four editions), the Ros project collapsed and the club basketball in Spain went into crisis while, paradoxically, the team launched itself to collect medals, breaking all the roofs. Now Salamanca completes the journey back to the elite. From the glory of Yekaterinburg to the challenge of Constantinople. “The important thing is to compete with identity, to look like our best version, although we are going to the limit in the physical section. Above winning or losing the challenge is competing. And when we do what we are, that’s when we compete ”, Íñiguez closes.

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