Two hours after storming Würzburg to win Valencia Basket's first Women's League, Rubén Burgos, their coach, sat down with the rest of his technical team in the lobby of the Vincci Ciudad de Salamanca hotel, ate a pizza, drank a beer and went up to the room to sort out his emotions. The Valencian has been visiting Paco Pardo for some time, a psychologist who is responsible for the Personal Development Area in which the coach works the mind to always stay cold. In his hotel room, the new champion enjoyed his first moment of calm since, four hours earlier, while the players were doing the warm-up wheel, he had been left alone in the locker room. An almost liturgical moment that he takes advantage of to make a script on a piece of paper that later, during the game, he almost never consults.
Valencia Basket fans celebrate the achievement of the League title last Monday in the pavilion of the Fuente de San Luis.Miguel Ángel Polo (EFE)
Burgos, who has just concluded his sixth season in charge of Valencia Basket, the club where he arrived as a child and where he reached the first team, is looking forward to the end of the celebrations to enjoy a little life before starting to manage the Spanish under-20 team. "I've been eight months in which I haven't done anything else. I went one day to Riba-roja, my village, and I have seen a couple of movies in the cinema. Little else. And I'm already looking forward to being with friends and celebrating," he says.
The coach will take his car again, which he parks at the beginning of the season because, he says, he is very stressed and prefers to go to train on an electric bicycle through the garden of the old Turia riverbed to L'Alqueria del Basket, the mammoth facility built by the club with the ambition of forming one of the most important nurseries in Europe. From the quarry have emerged girls like Lorena Segura, Claudia Contell – MVP of last year's European Under-20 – and Awa Fam, a center from Alicante of Senegalese parents, and 1.92 meters tall, who debuted in the first team with only 15 years. In addition, we must add other young women, linked to the Paterna of the Women's Challenge League, such as Laia Lamana and Elena Buenavida, who have enjoyed minutes and who, in the case of the second, was important in the final with just turned 19.
The players of Valencia Basket celebrate their victory in Salamanca against Perfumerías Avenida that meant the League title last Sunday. JM Garcia (EFE)
The quarry has become a priority for Juan Roig, the owner of this club who is heir to the old basketball section of Valencia CF. Someone who knows Roig's slogans is his general director at the club, Enric Carbonell. "In the assemblies of the ACB I always say that, fortunately or unfortunately, we have three teams: the flagship, which is the male, one female and L'Alqueria, which has the same importance because the work of patronage is not sustained without the three legs. The women's team, having been born later, is where that union is most reflected, a special connection, with L'Alqueria because it has been nourished by it from very early on. We have the obligation to leave space for the players of L'Alqueria".
The patron invested 18 million euros in this 1,500 square meter facility that has 13 basketball courts – nine of them covered – a large gym and rooms for doctors and physiotherapists. Behind, the skeleton of the Roig Arena is already on the horizon, an installation inspired by the dazzling Chase Center of the Warriors or the O2 Arena in London. A gift from Juan Roig to the city that costs 220 million and that will completely transform the neighborhood. Its appearance will have an impact on the local economy, according to the Valencian Institute of Finance (IVF), in more than 10 million euros per year. The Roig Arena, which will be finished between 2024 and 2025, will be the home of Valencia Basket, but it was born with the aspiration of attracting the best artists and the best shows in the world.
There will also play the women's team, which in the playoff has put more people in the pavilion of the Fuente de San Luis – it touched the 7,000 spectators in the first game of the final – than the men's, which has a fateful season. The women's section is the result of the commitment of Manolo Real, a crucial person in this project. Real was once sports director of the men's team and, later, coach of Ros Casares.
That team won eight leagues and became European champion with Roberto Íñiguez. Then it disappeared. Only his quarry survived, a group of 150 girls who went on to direct Real in the modest pavilion of Malvarrosa, in the seaside neighborhood of the city. In 2014, the coach met with Toni Muedra, then Valencia's sporting director, and offered to create a women's section with those girls. Together, with some other enthusiasts, they sat down with the president, Paco Raga, a personal friend of Roig and his right hand in basketball, and he convinced the skipper to take the step forward.
The team started in the National League in 2014. In two years it was promoted to Liga Femenina 2. A couple of more seasons and, in 2018, already with Burgos, he reached the Women's League. Every year it goes one step further: the Eurocup in 2020, the Spanish and European Super Cup in 2021 and this League title, after staying one win away from the Final Four in the Euroleague, in 2023.
With this structure and a team marked by the talent and personality of national players such as Raquel Carrera, Queralt Casas, Cristina Ouviña and Leti Romero, Valencia Basket aspires to mark an era in Spain, as Ros Casares and Dorna Godella did before, although to emulate them it should win the Euroleague, a challenge that right now, with two ocean liners such as Fenerbahçe and Çukurova, it seems complicated.
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