When Fontajau touched the sky

On February 23, 2015, the shock came. It was impossible for the Spar Citylift Girona to maintain the cruising speed it had imposed for months. Sooner or later it would be time to slow down. Beyond the how, the amazing thing was what. Built on a fairly low budget compared to the numbers that have been moving lately in Fontajau, that squad had climbed to the top spot in the league. Good basketball and great results. But in February, the mess. The elimination in the Cup at the hands of the Conquero de Huelva was a blow. Mostly from inside doors; the title had never been won and was not a goal of the entity, but victory escaped when it looked like it wouldn’t. Then the defeat with Rivas Ecópolis. Enough to end the patience of the coach, Ramon Jordana, who resigned. He left the team third (16-3) and the bench orphaned, with the competition entering the hot phase. What would have sunk other teams was a point and a go for Uni. Only two months later, the first Women’s League title of the two that the entity has won so far would be lifted. It was April 23, today five years ago, and in front of more than 5,000 spectators in Fontajau. It touched the sky defeating the almighty Perfumerías Avenue, resigned and sunk in the track (72-54). A real turning point for the club, which started an obvious growth that has led it to join another league and compete head to head in Europe.

“It was very special.” Roberto Íñiguez has no problem talking about that milestone. The then coach of Uni, now without a team and confined to Alicante, keeping company with his son Pablo, who plays for Hercules, has no trouble remembering the blows it takes to pass through Girona. A short stage, of a few months, but that captivated him and that he will never take out of his backpack of memories. “People and clubs do it. After all, that’s what I’m left with. I lived and worked with extraordinary people, making friends that I still maintain. I stay with that, ”he says. He came from a major “wear and tear” in Turkey and this led him to live in Girona. His son, a footballer, played there and decided to spend some time there. Jordana’s resignation made him the main candidate to replace him and he accepted. “I talked to Pablo and he told me to accept. Also my agent, convinced that Uni had a very good team. The thing went well. I was lucky and I was also smart in continuing Ramon’s good work. You just have to play a couple of keys and just don’t make a revolution. ” Íñiguez has the final match etched in his mind. The last victory. “We achieved something historic and in front of a lot of people, on a very special day. What worried me most was controlling the emotional state of my players, they weren’t used to living in a situation like that. They did very well. The title was in the bag and since then, nothing has been done in Girona other than to look up, with ambition: “The club has grown a lot thanks to a very good job. He is becoming more and more professional and this has been noticed. I’ve faced it once and it’s always a pleasure to do so.

“It wasn’t our goal”

Few imagined, months ago, that Uni would end up winning that title. The squad had not been built with this idea, but to continue to improve while consolidating itself in the elite of state women’s basketball. If the final could be reached, better; if it was possible to qualify for the Cup, perfect. But the title? “It simply came to our notice then. The budget was very low compared to today. What happens is that we got it right with the signings and the pieces worked very well “, recalls Pere Puig, the still sporting director of the entity. The best scorer of last season had signed, a Brittany Chambers still very young. Also to the Lithuanian Vita Kuktiene, an experienced triplet player who was key to the truth. They were joined by Nigerian Ify Ibekwe, who came from South Korea, and Vanessa Gidden, who would end up brilliant. “They all worked perfectly with the Catalans in the dressing room, such as (Anna) Carbó, Jael (Freixanet), (Eva) Bou, (Èlia) Ros, Noemí (Jordana) …”.

Success was a fact. The title, in the pocket, ending the Perfumerías dynasty. “I have very fond memories of it. Then we were not aware of what we had achieved. We were overwhelmed by the crowd and the victory. Over time we have realized that this meant a change of cycle that has allowed us to aspire to more things, to have more recognition. It was a turning point. It was a team that with the passing of the days hooked people and would end up aspiring to win the league. We had a small crisis in February, but we got out.

And now what?

Taking a look at the past and having braved the memory of that feat, reaping the benefits of what the title meant, Fontajau is now looking forward. It is done with prudence by flag, not yet quite clear how things will go. The coronavirus pandemic has virtually paralyzed him, although basketball has not escaped. The Endesa Women’s League, with four days still undisputed and the play-off for the unreleased title, it was postponed. Knowing one hundred percent what its outcome will be too much adventure, but next Monday, April 27 the Spanish Basketball Federation (FEB) meets with all the clubs involved to reach certain conclusions. There are many chances that the competition will be canceled and even the qualifiers to decide the champion team may not be contested, leaving the prizes final. It remains to be seen, however, what the position of the body and also of the clubs will be, but many of them would bet on this path. The only thing that needs to be agreed is what happens with promotions and relegations. Europe is something else. The possibility of moving the Eurocup to a final eight in the autumn between the surviving teams remains, although it is not a definitive route.

In Girona, the focus is on the next season. Impossible to focus one hundred percent on it. The wish is for the bulk of the current staff to continue, but there are plenty of questions. It is not known if it will be possible to play with the public when the competition starts next year, nor what will happen to the season tickets. Income is written with question mark. We need to talk to the institutions and also to the sponsors, but given the current times and that tomorrow is very uncertain, this is far from concrete. The club has been doing the job as best it could. He has spoken to each and every one of the players, a few of them for a few weeks now in their respective countries. An agreement has been reached with almost all of them – only one of the situations remains to be closed – to decide how to close this course. Once that’s done, it’s time to get the gear up and running to plan for next year. Only three players have a contract. Helena Oma, María Araujo and Marta Xargay. The latter case, with certain exceptions because the Girona woman could leave if a proposal arrives that makes her patxoca to change her mind. It has all three and also other pieces, but all of it is still green and is gripped with tweezers. What is clear is that the budget will be reduced, although the general interest in the entity is that much of the staff will remain.

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