Fenerbahçe in seventh heaven after Euroleague victory
AFP photoFenerbahçe fans and players were over the moon on May 22, cheering and dancing on the streets to celebrate the club’s maiden Turkish Airlines Euroleague title.
European basketball’s top club trophy remained in Istanbul after Fenerbahçe beat Greek side Olympiacos 80-64 on May 21 in the championship game in Istanbul’s Sinan Erdem Dome.
Playing in front of more than 13,000 fired up fans, Zeljko Obradovic’s men dominated Olympiacos, starting with a reverse alley-oop by Jan Vesely in the match’s first play and leading all the way to the final whistle.
Following celebrations in Istanbul and across the country on the night of May 21, Fenerbahçe players met fans on May 22 in Istanbul’s Kadıköy on the city’s Asian side, where the club is based. Joyous supporters accompanied the players on a double deck bus with slogans and torches.
Legendary Serbian coach Zelsjko Obradovic left the court on May 21 jumping with joy with a small replica of the championship trophy in his hands, as if it was his first such success. In fact, Obradovic was claiming his ninth Euroleague title with a fifth team, cementing his place as European basketball’s most successful coach ever.
“I’m happy for myself but I’m happier for Fenerbahçe,” Obradovic said after the game. “I thank our chairman and the board to provide with a fantastic atmosphere to work in. I also want to congratulate my players, and thank the magnificent fans whose support contributed greatly to the success.”
But the Serbian warned that the celebrations will not continue for long.
“We will celebrate tonight. But the Turkish league playoffs start on Wednesday. We must be prepared. We are the champion of Turkey and we want to defend that title,” he said.
The Serbian coach joined Fenerbahçe in 2013, when the club was eliminated in the last 16 stage. It has since played in three consecutive Final Fours, finishing fourth in 2015, losing the final to CSKA Moscow in overtime last year, and finally claiming the trophy in its home city.
Obradovic already has next year’s Final Four on his mind.
“Next year, the Final Four will be played in my home, in Belgrade. Our target is to claim the trophy again in the final in Belgrade,” he said.
Ekpe Udoh shined against Olympiacos with 10 points, 9 rebounds and a Euroleague championship game record 5 blocked shots, claiming a well-deserved Final Four MVP trophy.
Obradovic sang the praises of his player.
“[Udoh] deserved to be the MVP of the Final Four. His contribution to the team is really special. I have coached for 25 years but I cannot remember many players who have concentration like him,” he said.
With nine players on the scoresheet for the winning side, Nikola Kalinic scored 17 points on 4-of-6 three-point shooting and Bogdan Bogdanovic also scored 17 for the winners. Luigi Datome scored 10 of his 11 points in the second half to help Fenerbahçe pull away.
Fenerbahce outrebounded Olympiacos 40-30 and blocked 9 shots in a dominant effort in the paint. Khem Birch led Olympiacos with 14 points, Nikola Milutinov netted 10 and Vassilis Spanoulis finished with 9 points and 8 assists.