The handshake between Oded Kattash and Sasa Obradovic, the coaches of Maccabi Tel Aviv and AS Monaco Basketball respectively brought to an end a gripping and historic series, which sees the Roca Team progress to the Euroleague Final Four for the first time in the club’s history, and all in front of Prince Albert II, who reacted to the historic feat post-match.
The atmosphere throughout the evening was electric, albeit tinged with nervousness at moments, with the Roca Team not having things all their own way on their home court. The final buzzer was a cathartic and deafening moment in the Salle Gaston Médecin, with scenes of joy in the stands spilling onto the court in a beautiful communion between fans, players, and staff.
“One of the most historic matches”
Amongst them was Prince Albert II, who joined the players on the court post-match to celebrate the club’s historic achievement. However, it wasn’t just club history that was achieved on Wednesday night, but French basketball history, as Monaco became the first French side to progress to the Euroleague Final Four since 1997.
“It’s one of the most historic matches. It’s extraordinary,” began Prince Albert II in an interview with Skweek. “It was a difficult match for the nerves, but it had great intensity. The two teams were great, and we expected that it would be closely contested. We were able to manage our strong periods well and not fall into a trap.”
The final moments were particularly nail-biting for the Prince, who witnessed the accumulation of a decade’s work come down to just five minutes of basketball. “I was worried when we started committing fouls five minutes from the end, but the result is extraordinary. It’s good for French basketball and magnificent for Monaco. It showcases us brilliantly. The club was in the third division three years ago. No one believed or could even believe such a trajectory – me first and foremost,” he said.
Monégasque basketball rising from the shadows
Basketball has always lurked in the shadow of football within the borders of the Principality, but the sport has been fully embraced as part of Monaco’s packed and complex sporting matrix thanks to the club’s European exploits in recent years, which began with the EuroCup in 2021.
“A lot has been invested into this club, not just financially,” said Prince Albert, who was reflecting on the Roca Team’s meteoric rise. There is also a great dynamic with excellent players, a good group, and great staff. You see the passion that the team has aroused, even in a modestly-sized hall. You feel the fervent support from the loyal supporters. Personally, my passion for basketball has grown over the years. In Monaco, there was football, and now there is also basketball.”
“You have to believe until the end”
Prince Albert II is already looking ahead to the Final Four in Kaunas, where Monaco will face their old rival Olympiacos on 19th May, and the Sovereign is allowing himself to dream. “I’ll do everything possible to be at the Final Four in Lithuania. We are allowed to dream [of the title], but it will be very tough. There are some really brilliant teams and like any final(s), it will be a high-intensity match with huge stakes at the heart of it. You have to believe until the end,” he said.
Obradovic joked that he wasn’t thinking about the Final Four, “let me have this moment”, he joked to Skweek, but attention will soon turn to pulling off the ultimate feat, the pinnacle of European basketball – winning the Euroleague.
Photo credit: Michael Alesi / Palais Princier