In the list of national basketball heroes of this century, it is easy to distinguish the name of Jorge Garbajosa (Torrejon de Ardoz, Madrid; December 19, 1977). World champion and member of one of the most powerful teams for three decades. He now has another role, that of president of the Spanish Basketball Federation. From there he took the senior team three years ago to Pamplona. After the huge success of that, he opted to return, but in this case to play a Basketball World Cup qualifier. A meeting that he himself describes as “vital” and which, he says, “it’s a chance” that it takes place in Pamplona. “She has become one of our little right eyes”, and opens the door to the arrival of the women’s team also in the future and Navarrese fans can see Irati Etxarri at home.
Why did you decide to come back to Pamplona after three years?
-We do it, basically, because the previous experience was unbeatable. We find ourselves in a city totally devoted to the team and to all the facilities offered by the institutions. We also play in a facility that is the best in Europe. The Navarra Arena is spectacular, a clubhouse like few others. In addition, Moncho Urdiáin also provided us with all the facilities in the world. It’s a key match for World Cup qualification and we had to play it in a special place like this.
What was the feeling with which they left the previous time?
-Wow! The first memory I have is of seeing 10,000 totally dedicated team people who treated us with great affection. I remember that from the arrival even at the airport there were a lot of people waiting for the team, even at the hotel, and I have no words about what happened in the pavilion . You realize how important it was for all these people that we came. Since then, Pamplona has been one of our right eyes.
The big difference between this game and the one today is that on August 24, part of the options to qualify for the World Cup are played and the one then was friendly.
-It’s a very important match, vital I would say. Everything goes through the meeting in Pamplona. Iceland are a rival that doesn’t have a lot of name but it’s going to be very difficult, that’s why they are so high in the qualifying phase. They are very competitive players and their best stars compete in top leagues, like the Endesa league.
Do you expect the high expectation from your previous one to be repeated or do you think it’s too much?
– What I can tell everyone is that this match is fundamental, vital. I would tell you that it is the most important of the summer. Yes, then comes Eurobasket, but people have to get used to the idea of the complexity of being in a World Cup or Eurobasket. Look, Croatia is already eliminated and will not go. This game is vital.
More than 60% of the capacity is already full, do you think that, despite the bad date, the 10,000 places will be able to be completed?
-Insurance. The pandemic has disrupted many schedules and games are falling where they belong, but I’m sure people will react to the fullest.
Do you have any concerns? Last time everything sold out in 24 hours, although of course that’s the weird thing, not now
-It’s like that. We are quite happy with the rate at which tickets are selling. Everything indicates that the integral will be repeated. People will also rejoice as game day approaches and give it the final push, that’s for sure. There’s going to be a great atmosphere, I’m sure, especially for the Pamplona fans, who are an audience that knows basketball and understands that it’s a vital match for the national team. We are in what could be called a summer of transition and we need to qualify for the World Cup, which is why this match is essential.
It’s a team with many new names, which team will Navarrese fans face on August 24th?
Come on, let’s be realistic. We are certainly not going to see a Pau Gasol, or a Marc Gasol. They are unique and irreplaceable players. But what is being built is a modern, young, very physical team, which will be built from the defense. The first friendly match against Greece allowed us to see where we are and the path we have to follow. We are building ourselves to be a very physical team. Obviously we are not France, but it is clear that what we want is to defend and run. For the 24 in Pamplona we are going to be full for what I have already told you.
The Navarra Arena match is very close to Eurobasket, does that ensure that the level is higher?
-Without a doubt. What I told you, Iceland are a team with top people, but we have to be at our best on that day. It is a fundamental game and our greatest chance is that it is a pavilion with the Navarra Arena that will give us a plus to achieve victory.
You are going to spend almost a week in Pamplona, do you plan to take action to promote basketball?
-One of our functions when we play in a city is to leave a legacy and that is none other than to promote our sport, basketball. We are working with the Government of Navarre, with the Federation and with different institutions to do certain things (shortly after doing the interview, we learned that Scariolo would open the training sessions for Navarrese coaches). Obviously the first objective is to arrive at the match in good shape and for that we have to work and rest, but we understand the importance of our presence in a place and we will do some activities.
It’s clear from his words that he loves the Navarra Arena…
Listen, I was invited to the Navarra Arena when it was built many years ago. I almost fell in love as soon as I set foot there. It seems to me an infrastructure that is top in Europe with which it is almost obligatory that we go to Pamplona on a recurring basis.
This meeting is part of the 75th anniversary of the Navarra Basketball Federation, what do you think of the work they do?
-The Federation of Navarre has been working very well for many years. Since Agustín (Alonso) and now with Pablo (Bretos) and his whole team, they are dedicated to trying to make basketball grow in Navarre. The work of a federative entity never looks good, there is nothing left to do but do things in the shadows. We would like Navarre to have teams higher up in the top flight, but I think the work that is being done with the base is very good.
Navarre is currently experiencing a generational change in its references. This is where Irati Etxarri came in, summoned with the feminine absolute. Navarra tried to bring a game from this team but it was not possible, will we be able to see them at the Arena at some point?
-Insurance. I have no doubt about it. It is true that this year there have been discussions with the club and the institutions to play a match with the Navarre women’s team, but this season has been complicated since, being excluded from the World Cup, everything was more odd. But I can confirm that the women’s team will come to Pamplona. I don’t know when, but it will come for sure.
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