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Watch: FIBA Europe chief pushing for small countries support

FIBA Europe president Jorge Garbajosa (left) and MBA president Paul Sultana.

New FIBA Europe president Jorge Garbajosa may have only been the association’s chief for a few months, however, he has vowed to make small countries a priority.

The former Spanish international forward, who has played both in Europe and the NBA throughout his playing career, was in Malta for the Games of the Small States of Europe in one of his first outings as president and he said he wants to “show that I care and will be close to the small countries that most probably need more support than others”.

“It was important for me since the beginning to show that I’m going to focus mainly on the developing countries, not only the big countries – they make a big effort in their own basketball community, in their own federations to develop our beloved sport,” Garbajosa explained in an interview with the Malta Basketball Association.

Garbajosa was on the books of Benetton Treviso before leaving Spanish side Unicaja three seasons before Malta’s very own Samuel Deguara joined the Italian side.

Eventually, former Treviso General Manager Maurizio Gheradini who took over as the Toronto Raptors Vice-President and Assistant General Manager, recruited the Spaniard to the NBA where he played for two seasons before returning to Europe.

“Europe is, or has always been the main community for basketball globally but because of internal issues, maybe we lost some leadership, so we have to go back to our position,” Garbajosa said.

“We have a pretty good relationship with the NBA with Mark Tatum, the new president of FIBA Americas Fabian Borro, and Alphonse Bile from Africa. We have to show leadership but at the same time collaborating with them.

“FIBA Europe has to be a tool for the common good of the 50 national federations. For example, what I want to include from the next General Assembly is the Secretary Generals’ meeting on the same weekend.

“Some of the federations have the same needs or have the same challenges and maybe through the collaboration between them, they can find some solutions by themselves.

“Also, we are in a digital world now, and I’m in favour of workshops about digital, social media, about great content to help the national federations to understand what is the next step they have to take to be more linked to the fans and to have more engagement with them in their countries.”

Garbajosa was elected president on May 20 at the FIBA General Assembly in Munich, Germany, taking over from Turgay Demirel who had served for two terms.

Speaking about his plans, the former FIBA World Cup winner with Spain said ‘growing together’ was his main goal, particularly bridging the gap for small countries, women’s basketball, as well as solving long-standing issues with the EuroLeague.

“First of all, we have to grow together. This is not just a focus on the small countries, on the big countries, or the medium countries but as European basketball we have to grow together,” he said.

“During my trips throughout my campaign, in the conversations I’ve had, I understood what federations need. Some of them need financial support but not only that – they need tools to develop basketball like digital tools, and coaches.

“For the big countries, mainly it’s the ECA (EuroLeague Commercial Assets) issue we have to try and get an agreement as soon as we can. I did it in Spain with the ACB League. At the beginning of my presidency, the relationship was not that good – actually, it was very bad but now, for the past seven years we have had total collaboration between both organisations and I think we can bring this dialogue to European basketball as well.

“There will be many challenges in the future like women’s basketball. We need to develop women in sport, especially basketball, and the 3×3 which is no longer the future, but it is the present. There are many things to do.

“The good thing is that I didn’t present my programme as a campaign or an electoral programme, it was a guideline for the future, so we have to execute it in the next few years.”

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