Or why some think that Slovenians can’t have nice things: we break everything. But things change, sometimes with a bang such as we are witnessing now.
I’m writing this on the day of the finals: tonight undefeated team Slovenia and (once defeated) team Serbia will play in Istanbul for the crown of European male basketball. This is not something that happens often. But even more than the result – what amazes, astonishes and delights is the way they are doing it.
Players born and raised in Slovenia (to mixed parents in some cases), joined by one naturalised American and the coach of Serbian origin, have been showing no fear, no doubt and no mercy. As if to say: take it easy, we’ve got this. To me this was clear from the first game against Poland which they won, even though (upon repeat viewing) they didn’t play very well at all.
I don’t think Slovenians (and the world, come to think of it) appreciate anything more right now than having someone tell us this: relax, enjoy it, it will be okay. And more than okay, see for yourselves.
Such is the confidence that in this video they are already singing: “Slovenia is the champion of Europe.”
Such is the confidence that when Serbians secured their spot in the finals against Slovenia after winning over Russians on Friday, there was a tweet: “Serbia just won silver medal“.
Such is the confidence that the entire country threw caution to the wind and is spending their hard-earned money either by flying to Istanbul for the finals – only today 10 planes flew to Istanbul from Ljubljana – or by renting vans and busses and driving up to 20 hours to see this miracle in person. There was even a long line for passports after people realised they needed one.
And then the journalist who is covering this championship for Večer, a major Slovenian daily for which my father worked for many years, writes an article that almost made me throw up yesterday. I thought of letting it go, which I do to everything else I read online and doesn’t agree with me, but this one didn’t wish to stay down.
You don’t do this.
You don’t protest over other journalists congratulating you! No matter how you are a journalist, not a fan, and know deep down that everything sucks in Slovenian basketball and this country of ours in general. This is not the time nor the place.
You don’t rage against the “euphoria” taking the nation by the storm! No matter how long someone needed to join the party. Finally something good is uniting the nation. People are hungry for it. We are sick of divisions, disappointments, disasters.
You don’t go all Slovenian on the day before the finals and find things to bitch about while all the nation is rejoicing, coming over, proud for once, with a good reason. Not this time.
Oh, and also, you don’t count “naturalised” players in teams. This is so ugly and daft. Yes, we have one – Anthony Randolph from Real Madrid – and other three top countries (Spain, Russia, Serbia) do not. It is allowed and in the rules.
But not just him, or Goran Dragić who plays for Miami Heat and 18-year-old Luka Dončić who plays for Real Madrid, everybody else is highly efficient and doing their very best, if not more than that. And this is due to the head coach, Serbian Igor Kokoskov, who is assistant coach for NBA’s Utah Jazz, and all of his assistants.
They can tell you something about what you do, instead, if you want to win, which in the wilderness is just another word for survive:
You bring your game, not your name.
You take the best from your own tribe and consolidate it with neighbours’ genes. You study the opponents and know your own strengths. You deploy each and every one of your team just in time. You keep egos in check with your calmness. You play a quarter at the time, at your best, with your 7-second attack strategy which reminds me of a 5-second dog rule.
And the Slovenian people respond, you bet we do, after years of frustration when Slovenian basketball team kept dropping out of championships at early stages despite talent and quality. Self-sabotage is strong with this one. That’s why we need help from the outside. Ask Tina Maze, former Slovenian Alpine ski champion, and her Italian trainer and partner.
After the semifinals, which Slovenia won against Spain by twenty points, sister told me that Slovenian coach reminded her of my amore. What can I say? There’s that… 😉
So. Even if something should happen tonight to prevent Slovenian victory – injury, referees, doping, or just a terrible case of bad luck (even Ferrari dropped out today at the start in Singapore on both counts) – we must be grateful for seeing that it is possible and how it is possible. And in the world where less and less is still functioning, this is plenty. And this is what I thank you for, guys.
Today’s photos are from Maribor, the second biggest Slovenian town where my father was born, where “Večer” newspaper is published, and where they have the soccer team that plays in Champions League this year. They just played 1:1 against FC Spartak Moscow in their first game. Sevilla next, Liverpool soon.
Photo: © signature mmm