May 16, 2022

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The basketball match that half of Bologna has been waiting for

Virtus Bologna, who is already leading the regular season of the Italian Serie A, plays the European Cup final, the second European basketball championship, on Wednesday night against the Bursaspor Turks. The first European Cup final will be not only for Virtus, but also for Italian basketball. Virtus will also have the advantage of playing both at home and in the city, where the tradition of basketball is among the most profound in Italy and where two historical teams coexist (the other being Fortitudo), expectations are very high: about 9 thousand tickets available in half a day were sold out.

For the second most successful team in the history of the Italian championship, this is a wonderful moment, which could in a sense culminate in a cycle that began five seasons ago and come just six years after relegation to the A2 class in 2016, and almost twenty years later. Historic failure in 2003. So far in nineteen editions of the European Cup – until 2008 called the ULEB Cup – the best result of an Italian team was the third place awarded to Reggio Emilia in 2018. Virtus lost last season in the semi-finals by coming the fourth.

Should he win, he would qualify for the Euroleague, the European competition of reference, which is nonetheless a league of its own, so winning the tournament – as Virtus did – is not enough to qualify. In fact, most of the participating teams – in Italy only in Milan – have their place secured by multi-year agreements, to which other teams are added annually, one of which is the European Cup winner.

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Virtus recovered from relegation the following season, in 2017, with the entry of Venetian businessman Massimo Zanetti, owner of the sponsor Segafredo, who later became the company’s majority shareholder. He immediately returned to the Italian Serie A, and three years ago won the Basketball Champions League, the third continental basketball tournament, coached by Serbian Aleksandar Djordjevic. With Djordjevic, the team also returned to winning the championship after twenty years last season. However, in the summer, Serbian coach Sergio Scarello, NBA champion with the Toronto Raptors – was replaced – by Vice Nick Norse – and world champion with Spain in 2019.

In Bologna, Scarello found a ready-made team with a base of Italian players around the national team, such as Amedeo Tesitori, Alessandro Pagola and Udo Abbas, then merged with former NBA players Milos Teodosic and Marco Bellinelli, the latter returning to Virtus to finish. His career is in the team he grew up in. Another NBA player added last summer, 20-year-old Nico Manion, an Italian-American from the Golden State Warriors, came to Italy to continue growing. He was also contracted to French center Mohamedou Ga├»ta, Virtus’ strength this season. best team player European Cup.

With a senior squad capable of defending the Scudetto they won last year, Virtus has also boosted mid-season with Daniel Hackett and Tornik Shengelia, after CSKA left Moscow due to the effects of the Russian invasion on the sport in Ukraine. Hackett and Shingilia have raised the bar for the championship-leading group, the favorites for the Scudetto, and will now return to play in a European final. The opponents of Bursaspor are at hand: they surprised in the European Cup, but in the Turkish championship they occupy eighth place.

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