The Belgrade derby ends in a 3-on-4 match-up and then an Istanbul derby doesn’t happen at all. These are supposed to be finals, the pinnacle of the season. Emmet Ryan writes on why, irrespective of individual fault, this makes all involved look bad.
It’s been one of those weeks (and a bit), the type we are far too familiar with in European basketball. Had the 3 on 4 last man standing match that was the finish to Game 1 of the Serbian finals between Crvena Zvezda and Partizan been the worst thing to happen this month, it would still have been a rough one. Instead the Turkish league has managed to one-up that situation with the wholly insane finish to its season.
Game 6 of the Turkish finals took a while to come to life, mostly because of how awful Fenerbahce were in the first quarter, but in the end Galatasaray’s victory had a pleasant dose of excitement to round out their impressive performance. The season would go down to a decider, well at least that was the plan. Unfortunately, and at the time of writing this hasn’t changed, there won’t be a Game 7. Galatasaray are boycotting the game over a series of charges they have levelled against the Turkish basketball authorities.
This column is not about the rights and wrongs of Gala’s protest, not least because I haven’t a clue as to what if any legitimacy they hold. If we focus on the single element, which is this boycott, we miss the problem. Game 7 of the Turkish finals isn’t the problem nor is the descent into madness of Game 1 in Serbia. The problem is that for all the progress made on the court in European basketball, we still have a putrid air of amateurism at some of the highest levels of the game.
Roll it all the way back. We still see teams winning regional leagues like the ABA having issues paying players. We have teams arguing over the legitimacy of offical X and administrator Y. Personal biases and feuds are rife. Can anyone recall the last time a Panathinaikos or Olympiacos administrator said something nice about the other club? We follow a sport where we see some truly fantastic moments on court but live constantly with the fear that politics will prevent them from happening.
Personalities bring character to sport, having administrators who are passionate is great, but it doesn’t matter how well they are paid, if personal biases and feuds are allowed to run rampant through our sport then we will always be holding ourselves back.
Though I am a journalist I am also a fan. I want to see Galatasaray play Fenerbahce because the two best words in sport are Game 7. The reason we aren’t going to see it and why we fear madness at every turn isn’t down to a single event. It’s a cultural problem within the sport. There is plenty of mud flying between Gala and Fener fans today but in truth, and I understand why they don’t see it that way, they are directing their anger at the wrong foe. Our administrators, at club, league, and federation level need to step up. If the clubs wield power then use it for the betterment of the sport, if the leagues or federations do then what exactly are you waiting for?
Every time a team gets forced to play behind closed doors or in front of a limited crowd, the league and teams should look internally to ask how they could have prevented it. Every time a cheque bounces, it means a team didn’t plan its budget right. And every time we reach a point where accusations are being flung by the people who are leading the teams and leagues we follow, it is a failure on their part to allow that environment to develop.
Until we reach the point of maturity where those in charge accept all of this, the sport that we all love can be flush with cash but it won’t be professional.