The march of the fans, from within: the basketball moment that you will never want to miss again | where the emotion plays
Daniel Górriz and Itziar Bravo stop in front of one of the 3×3 courts set up on the Rambla del Gorg in Badalona, northeast of Barcelona. They watch a couple of kids laughing after missing a shot. Both have attended another year to an event that was key in their life as a couple. “We met eight years ago in a game in the final phase of the Basketball Cup between our teams and since then we haven’t missed any,” says the 27-year-old from Badalona. He wears a green and black Club Joventut Badalona shirt. Bravo, a 26-year-old from Madrid and already a resident of Badalona for love, wears a white elastic, a sign of her fans for Real Madrid. “What is lived here is incomparable to any sport, we are a family,” explains Górriz. In the same space, thousands of fans from different teams fraternize in full harmony. They parade and celebrate together; they exchange shirts, scarves and flags and, above all, they enjoy the sport in absolute communion. It’s the mystery of the glue that binds basketball fans together, a unique mix of celebration, joy and shared values beyond flags and jerseys.
The big party of fans returned to Badalona last weekend 38 years later. The Cup has not been held there since 1985. And that the city “breathes basketball on all four sides,” says Górriz. On Saturday, a crowd of supporters from the eight clubs of the Endesa League classified. They were joined by a large number of fans from many corners of Spain, even if their teams did not reach the final phase of the tournament. The glue also works with the unclassified.
“It’s an incredible experience,” says Marta Catalán. Vitoria, Málaga or Madrid are some of the cup venues that this 55-year-old resident of Badalona has previously visited. “I have gone many times and everyone is very respectful. Any fan is welcome.” Her passion for basketball dates back to her teens. Between the ages of 13 and 17, she played for the La Penya women’s team, as Joventut is known. Later, she trained local teams of lower categories for more than 20 years. That fervor was later instilled in her two teenage children. “For us, basketball is a way of life, we watch a lot of games together every weekend, it’s a way of uniting the family,” she says.
The last time the Cup was held in Badalona, Toni Navarro was two years old. Now, at 40, he has been a member of La Penya all his life. “This tournament is brutal, it is a party for all the fans together. It was up to the Badaloneses to be able to enjoy it… ”, he says. He does it together with his wife, Belén Díaz, 41 years old. However, she wears a light blue elastic that reveals her Galician origin. She was born in Lugo and is a follower of CB Breogán out of family, and a member of Joventut out of love. She agrees with her husband that the pageant is a special event. “We have found people without a ticket who come just to enjoy all this. I think most of them are happy because in the end that’s what it’s all about: making communion with the rest of the fans”, she values. “I am Catalan, she is Galician, we have been with many from the Canary Islands, from Andalusia… in the end the Cup, like basketball, transmits a mixture of cultures”, Navarro adds.
His is a widespread opinion among those who are joining the event. Vicente Allellón, a 56-year-old farmer from the Canary Islands, leads the march of his family. He wears a yellow and black wig and plastic wings simulating those of a bee. They are fans of Lenovo Tenerife, finalist of the Copa del Rey 2023, and it is the fifth time they have attended a cup final phase. “The atmosphere is always awesome. Everyone who comes repeats it, but you have to witness it to understand it, ”he says.
For Juan Carlos Rey, a 40-year-old from Madrid, this edition was the tenth final phase he has attended. “I think it’s wonderful how so many fans come together without problems, it’s a unique event, a format that I hope any sport could copy”, explains this Real Madrid fan. He recommends that anyone, “regardless of whether they like basketball or not,” go to the event at least once. Maribel Pedrosa, a 67-year-old retiree, has been a member of Cazoo Baskonia for more than 50 years. She has gone to “so many Cups” that she does not know how to say the exact number. “All of the ones we’ve played, and the atmosphere is fabulous, I would tell you that it’s getting better and better,” she says.
Year after year, the fans of the group from Vitoria are the main people responsible for animating the atmosphere thanks to the txaranga Biotzatarrak, the musical group that created the characteristic kalejira -parade, in Basque- in the Cup that was held in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in 2015. Their fanfares mean the beginning of the parade with which they collect the rest of the fans until together they form a whole. Andoni Duque, a 53-year-old engineer and one of the oldest members of the Biotzatarrak, remembers how the idea came about. “That year, Baskonia was not even classified and only five of the txaranga went to the Canary Islands. One of us, Válter, came up with the idea of starting to play to show that the team was present at the tournament, even if they didn’t play. And from then until now.” The name of the orchestra is a tribute to its members. “Biotza means heart in Basque, a nod to the Corazonistas school in Vitoria, where most of the members were born, as I say,” explains Duque, who has only missed “two or three Cups” since his debut in 1992.
Basketball was the great link during the meeting between hobbies, but not the only one. Culture is also a transversal part of the event. To unite basketball and music, Endesa attracted artists such as the renowned diyey Spanish DJ Nano or the Argentine singer-songwriter Coti to reinforce the atmosphere of street fraternization throughout the weekend. There was also space to pay homage to Catalan identity with the performance of the Castellers de Badalona association. Their shows consist of making human towers, the castells, which can sometimes exceed ten meters in height. Carlos Llombart, collar cap of the group – something like the head of the team – which this year celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, thanked the Endesa League for its commitment. “We had already worked with Joventut and I think they were attracted to the idea. Culture is something that unites people and is essential for the environment here to be so healthy”, explains Llombart.
For a large number of fans, the final phase extols the values that sport transmits. In practice, it doesn’t matter who you ask or where it comes from. For Nayra Sosa, 25, a follower of Lenovo Tenerife, the “secret” of the Cup is that “there is no rivalry off the field”; her friend Yael Carrer, a 25-year-old Asturian and also a follower of the Canarian club, sees the gathering of hobbies as “a party where everyone comes to have a good time”. What Daniel Pinés, a 35-year-old Barça follower – even played as a point guard in the club’s youth academy for two years – what he likes most about the event is that “it is, above all, about friendship and camaraderie”. Ignacio Martínez, a 29-year-old lawyer and supporter of Unicaja -winner of the 2023 Cup- highlights the “effort” and “support for the loser” as fundamentals of the event. “The Joventut people stayed to shout ‘Baskonia, Baskonia’ after eliminating them, this is wonderful, the magic of basketball”, he says.
The meeting between hobbies is also a meeting point. Not just for hobbyists; also for the staff of volunteers who participate in the event. Daniel González, a 24-year-old from Barcelona, made his debut in 2019 and added his fourth volunteering this year. “You end up sharing such good times with your colleagues that you want to repeat the experience. We have a WhatsApp group with volunteers from other years and we keep in touch. Last year, for example, a colleague from Valencia came to pick me up in Barcelona to go together to the Cup that was played in Granada ”, he recalls. Icíar García, a 26-year-old from Madrid whose task focused on uploading content to the social networks of the Endesa League, lived her second cup experience. “The best thing is that you have a house all over Spain,” she jokes. “In the end you meet so many people that all you want is to meet them again. We are all united by the love of basketball”.
12 years promoting values
Endesa has been supporting national basketball for 12 years, from the big stars to grassroots sports, including all the national teams. It also does so through social improvement projects such as Basket Girlz or the Endesa Heart League, an initiative that seeks to promote values such as camaraderie and solidarity through projects born from the basketball community itself. In addition, the company has opted to add to the sport of the basket its commitment to music, adding two worlds that, in the words of the Argentine rocker Coti, “are the expression of the best of our peoples and societies. It’s beautiful to see how they come together and how our lives improve.”