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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Alba’s basketball players play for promotion

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Lucy Reuss takes it with humor. The 24-year-old basketball player starts this Saturday with Alba Berlin in the play-offs for promotion to the first Bundesliga. But until a few days ago it was not clear if it would really start this weekend or if the main phase matches would be compensated, who Alba would face in the quarterfinals and in what format. “It was quite a mess in the league,” says Reuss. “But we look at ourselves first, so it almost doesn’t matter who we play against.”

In the meantime, however, the Berliners know this. On Saturday (14:30, live broadcast on sporttotal.tv) they will play fourth place in the second DBBL Süd, DJK Don Bosco Bamberg. A week later, Alba is the first from Nordstaffel to have home advantage in the second leg. If Reuss and his teammates prevail against the Franconians, then again it’s a two-way game for promotion. “If we could do it, that would be great. But we’re only looking at the first game,” says Reuss.

Born in Stuttgart, she is Alba’s longest-serving player and has been with the team for eight years. It wasn’t until 2018 that the Berliners reached the second division, but Reuss sees the real turning point a year later. “When the top management of the club said we wanted you to have a chance to get to the top, that gave us a big boost,” with completely different financial and human resources.

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Of course, as the biggest basketball club in Germany and with its successful men’s team, Alba has other options besides the competition, which almost exclusively comes from smaller cities. Simply pumping money into the women’s department to get them to the first division and to the top as quickly as possible is not Alba’s way. “In the long term, we want to get to where we are with the men with the women,” says sporting director Himar Ojeda. “But we want to grow organically and sustainably. The women’s area must be self-sufficient.”

Good mix of experience and talent.

Some 400 women and girls play at Alba, more than any other German club, and this work among young people is gradually bearing fruit. Of the 16 players that make up the Second Division squad, eight are from Berlin and nine are under 20 years of age. “We have a good mix of experience and talent,” says Reuss.

The biggest challenges are more in the organizational area. Berliners do not have a suitable place. They play in an adjoining room at the Max-Schmeling-Halle, where no more than a few hundred fans can see them, even without pandemic-related restrictions. “We are working on it and we have tried everything possible, but the situation of the room in Berlin is frustrating,” says Ojeda. However, Reuss is happy that spectators were allowed in the last two games, even if it was only 80. “After almost two years without fans, it was super nice.”

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Due to the very different living conditions, training is also more difficult than for male professionals. Some players still go to sports school and train there in the mornings, others are already in professional life, like captain Lena Gohlisch, who works as a doctor at the hospital, or Reuss, who works at a law firm while studying law. .

“From an organizational point of view it’s difficult, but it’s also a balance when I’m in the hall for two hours at night and I can switch off,” says Reuss. In addition, she felt that the club held her in high regard and was able to finance her rental with her fans. “Of course there is still a lot to do in terms of equality, but that is a privilege.” Alba also has three young professional basketball players under contract in Hannah Brown, Valeria Aleksieva and Luciana Chagas.

In the future, more players should have the opportunity to fully focus on basketball through reasonable payment, but there is still a long way to go. The promotion would certainly help generate more attention and perhaps win new sponsors as well. For Reuss and his team-mates, none of this matters at first, they want to enjoy the play-offs above all else. “We fought for it all season, now we want to rise to the challenge.”

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