Panathinaikos Athens wins a Final Four between ecstasy and riots

Kostas Sloukas clenched his fists and screamed towards the green wall behind the basket. The fans of Panathinaikos Athens could hardly believe it; they grabbed their heads and hugged each other. On the sidelines, NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose brother Kostas plays for the Greeks, jumped up and cheered.

It was pure ecstasy at the Euroleague Final Four in the arena in Friedrichshain. For the first time since 2011, Panathinaikos won the most important European basketball competition. In the final, the Greeks deservedly defeated defending champions Real Madrid 95:80 (36:25, 18:24, 7:15, 31:19).

The conclusion after three days of top European basketball is, however, ambivalent. The 14,500 fans in the arena in Friedrichshain created a great atmosphere for the most part, especially those of Panathinaikos Athens. Away from the arena, however, there were numerous incidents that significantly cloud the picture from Berlin’s perspective.

The police are under heavy pressure at the Euroleague basketball final four.

© dpa/Andreas Gora

It began on Friday with a fight, as a result of which 60 people tried to storm the arena. On Saturday evening, a confrontation between Greek basketball fans at the Prenzlauer Allee S-Bahn station followed, involving significantly more than 100 people. According to the police, baseball bats and batons were used. 89 people were provisionally arrested. The Berlin fire department reported on X that twelve people were injured in the fight, one of them critically and two seriously.


Officers of the Berlin police were in use

The police had therefore significantly increased their presence on the day of the final and had 700 officers on site. Water cannons and a police helicopter were also on standby. Both the number of officers and the additional repertoire that was ready for action would have been unusually high even for a football match. There were no major incidents until the end of the match on Sunday and so the focus was on sport, at least for the grand finale.

Real Madrid started, as in the semi-finals, with the confidence of the defending champion and main round winner. Although center Edy Tavares had to go to the bench after just three minutes following two early fouls, the Madrilenians kept finding the right solutions. The shooting percentages were outstanding, and the depth of the squad is unique in Europe. Sometimes it was Dzanan Musa who turned things up, sometimes Facundo Campazzo or Vincent Poirier.

Shortly before the end of the first quarter, the Madrilenians were leading by double figures for the first time. It looked as if there was nothing they could do against the Spanish superiority and the Panathinaikos fans, who filled almost half of the arena in their green jerseys, needed a few minutes to collect themselves.

Star guests from the NBA. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Schröder watched the Final Four in the arena.

© REUTERS/Annegret Greetings

In the second quarter, however, the Greeks came back into the game – and their supporters became louder with every point. When Kostas Sloukas coolly converted the last shot of the first half, he fired up the crowd even more with his arms flailing and a determined expression on his face.

Panathinaikos’ first lead of the game after a three-pointer by Kendrick Nunn in the middle of the third quarter finally brought the Greek fans to ecstasy. They drummed, sang, danced and acknowledged every successful move with a deafening noise. It was clearly a home game for the Greens – and Real was visibly impressed. In ten minutes, the Spaniards managed just seven points and missed all nine of their three-pointers.

There was not much left of the initial self-confidence. Sergio Llull kept Real alive, but the green wave could no longer be stopped. The Greek playmaker legend, who had only moved from arch-rivals Olympiakos Piraeus to Panathinaikos before this season, took control of the final phase and scored shot after shot. The last few minutes were one big party.

By Editor

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