Two hours after attacking Würzburg to win the first Valencia Basket Women’s League, Rubén Burgos, their coach, sat down with the rest of his technical team in the lobby of the Vincci Ciudad de Salamanca hotel, ate a pizza, drank a beer and he went up to the room to order his emotions. The Valencian has been visiting Paco Pardo for some time now, a psychologist who is in charge of the Personal Development Area in which the coach works his mind to always stay cool. In his hotel room, the new champion enjoyed his first moment of calm since, four hours earlier, while the players were doing the warm-up round, he had been left alone in the locker room. An almost liturgical moment that he takes advantage of to write a script on a piece of paper that later, during the game, he almost never consults.
Burgos, who has just finished his sixth season at the helm of Valencia Basket, the club he joined as a child and where he reached the first team, is looking forward to the end of the celebrations to enjoy a bit of life before getting back to work. lead the Spanish under-20 team. “I have spent eight months in which I have not done anything else. One day I went to Riba-roja, my town, and I have seen a couple of movies in the cinema. Little more. And I already want to be with friends and celebrate it, ”he says.
The coach will take his car again, which he parks at the start of the season because, he says, he is very stressed and prefers to go train on an electric bicycle through the garden of the old Turia riverbed to L’Alqueria del Basket, the mammoth facility built by the club with the ambition of forming one of the most relevant incubators in Europe. Girls like Lorena Segura, Claudia Contell —MVP of last year’s European Under-20 Championship— and Awa Fam, a 1.92-meter-tall center from Alicante with Senegalese parents, who made her debut in the first team with just 15 years. In addition, we must add other young women, linked to Paterna of the Women’s Challenge League, such as Laia Lamana and Elena Buenavida, who have enjoyed minutes and, in the case of the second, was important in the final when she just turned 19 .
The youth academy has become a priority for Juan Roig, the owner of this club who is heir to the old basketball section of Valencia CF. Someone who knows Roig’s slogans is his general manager at the club, Enric Carbonell. “In the ACB assemblies I always say that, fortunately or unfortunately, we have three teams: the flagship, which is the male one, a female one, and L’Alqueria, which is equally important because patronage work is not stands without all three legs. The women’s team, because it was born later, is where that union is most reflected, a special connection, with L’Alqueria because it has been nurtured from it from very early on. We have the obligation to leave space for the players from L’Alqueria”.
The patron invested 18 million euros in this 1,500-square-meter facility that has 13 basketball courts—nine of them covered—, a large gym, and rooms for doctors and physiotherapists. Behind, the skeleton of the Roig Arena is already silhouetted on the horizon, an installation inspired by the dazzling Chase Center of the Warriors or the O2 Arena in London. A gift from Juan Roig to the city that costs 220 million and that will completely transform the neighborhood. The appearance of it will affect the local economy, according to the Valencian Institute of Finance (IVF), in more than 10 million euros per year. The Roig Arena, which will be finished between 2024 and 2025, will be the home of Valencia Basket, but it was born with the aspiration of attracting the best artists and the best shows in the world.
The women’s team will also play there, which in the playoff It has brought more people into the Fuente de San Luis pavilion – it touched 7,000 spectators in the first game of the final – than the men’s, which has had a fateful season. The women’s section is the result of the efforts of Manolo Real, a crucial person in this project. Real was in his day sports director of the men’s team and, later, coach of Ros Casares.
That team won eight Leagues and became European champion with Roberto Íñiguez. Then it disappeared. Only her quarry survived, a group of 150 girls who went on to direct Real in the modest Malvarrosa pavilion, in the city’s fishing district. In 2014, the coach met Toni Muedra, Valencia’s sports director at the time, and offered to create a women’s section with those girls. Together, with some other enthusiasts, they sat down with the president, Paco Raga, Roig’s personal friend and his right-hand man in basketball, and he convinced the boss to take the step forward.
The team started in the National League in 2014. In two years it was promoted to the Women’s League 2. A couple more seasons and, in 2018, already under the guidance of Burgos, it reached the Women’s League. Each year it goes one step further: the Eurocup in 2020, the Spanish and European Super Cup in 2021 and this League title, after staying one win away from the Final Four in the Euroleague, in 2023.
With this structure and a team marked by the talent and personality of national players such as Raquel Carrera, Queralt Casas, Cristina Ouviña and Leti Romero, Valencia Basket aspires to mark an era in Spain, as Ros Casares and Dorna have done before. Godella, although to emulate them he would have to win the Euroleague, a challenge that right now, with two ocean liners like Fenerbahçe and Çukurova, seems complicated.
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