George Vasilakopoulos on SPORT 24: ‘When I realized I was alone’

George Vasilakopoulos compares the distance of basketball with the rift that was about to happen in football. When I entered his office yesterday (21/4) in the morning, for the first time in six years, I realized how right he was who first said that a man’s soul comes out first and then hui …


I had seen the frame for the last time in 2015 and I saw it again now …

On the wall, face card, as soon as I entered I saw again the poster of Andreas Papandreou and below one of his most famous buzzwords …

Greece belongs to the Greeks. It is not assigned!

For Greece, I agree and increase, like all of us. For basketball, football and in general and indiscriminately for all sports, I do not put my hand in the fire …

George Vasilakopoulos does not put it either, so two or three times during our conversation that concerned exclusively what is happening in world football and their connection with basketball, he looked at the wall and monologued …

“Oh Andrea, oh Andrea”!

Interview with Vassilis Skountis

For a long time now, the “strong man” (an expression that I suspect was invented and launched for his sake) of Greek basketball has been on burning coals.

«I’m not complaining, to tell you the truth. My life is full of basketball, but it bothers me that I was completely banned from playing. But what can we do … I am convinced of them, as the epigram of Simonides of Keio said on the tomb of 300 of Leonidas»!

Despite the chatter that catches him, the “grandfather” is in good spirits and in any case willingly accepts to go up in the time machine and revive the basketball players in 2000, which were about to be repeated now in football.


«The creation of the European Super League was not canceled, it was just extended and I am sure that we will see this project completed in the future»Emphasizes explicitly and categorically …

What does he mean; Here is his reasoning:

«I do not know if it was a firework, a bubble or something. But the reason why all this turmoil was caused makes me think. Pereth, whom I know personally and Anielli, are nothing short of superfluous or superficial people who would take on such a venture if they were unsure of its success. My feeling is that its implementation has been postponed for a while and will be in the spotlight again in the future. Some tactics and attitudes will change here and there, because what happened in the last three days looks like a big shake-up.».

However, there were many and pandemic reactions from the people, from the fans …

«I do not think that this fact played a major role in their withdrawal. Mycenaeans, wherever they operate, do not have such sensitivities and people can not play a role. There are public opinion makers who influence and are influenced by economic rather than sports or social interests».

-So you think that this is just a postponement, a temporary suspension?

«I’m sure of that. They just did not want the new league to start now. They sent a message, caused a first annoyance and turmoil and are waiting for the reactions and any differences in the scene. They have something else in mind, something else they are claiming at this stage and it will be seen soon. Perez was not suddenly overwhelmed by madness. He is a serious businessman and man, who runs the largest club in the world and does not need publicity, nor would he get involved in a story without perspective».


The sporting context is changing dramatically at all levels. I do not know if the sports movement that you raised as a banner for many years still exists?

«Unfortunately, the project is changing, at all levels. The mere fact that the IOC puts skateboards and … video games in the program of the Olympic Games is enough and more than enough to prove the decline. This is bad, but there is also something worse: no one reacts, everything is accepted or tolerated … “

Photo by: Andreas Papakonstantinou / Tourette Photography

-Agreed, the economic factor dominates, but there has always been this trend …

«Yes, but once money was the means, now it has become the goal and it is everything. Economic power now nullifies the true hypotension of sports as a social good».

-Do they have anything in common in what is happening now in football with what basketball experienced and still experiences with the apostasy of the teams in 2000, the split and the establishment of the Euroleague?

«Of course, tale e quale are these situations, with the difference that FIFA and UEFA are much more organized and powerful players than FIBA. The current developments in football are déjà vu from our adventure. Since 1988, at the general assembly of the FIBA ​​European zone, I had warned the representatives of the federations that there was a tendency for the teams to become autonomous and to create a closed league.

Unfortunately, no one paid attention to me and in fact many people made fun of me and tried to isolate me. I remember that at dinner after my speech, no one came to sit with me! We were served as a snack from the buffet and I was like the reed in the plain».

-What did you focus on then, when the guerrilla tendency had not yet manifested?

«I could feel the underground currents and I could feel what would follow. Four years later, in 1992, I was strongly opposed to the decision of the late Borislav Stankovic to include the Spanish Portela, the Italian Porelli and the Frenchman Bale-Lespito in the Organizing Committee at collective and national level. I felt like letting a … fifth phalanx act inside the body of FIBA».


-When did you realize that your intuition would come true and your fears would be confirmed?

«In 1999 at the general assembly of the national federations I realized that we had reached the zero point. Then I asked everyone to open their papers and some were misunderstood. The result; Again I ate alone in the evening at the formal dinner»!!!

Photo by: Andreas Papakonstantinou / Tourette Photography

-And with these and with these do we reach the schism of 2000? How did things turn out?

«First of all, we had the Final Four of the European Championship (SS: such days, April 18-20) in Pylea. So there appeared a strange guy, an artist, a communicator, carried by the Belgian Leon Vandel and proposed the change of the name of the event to a Super League. Listen there Super League! I had then asked this artist what work he does? And he replied that he is a communicator. That is, I told him, you are in society! I was very upset when I saw Stankovic wearing the hat with that name, I was ashamed! Only Simon Misrahi, the Russian, reacted. Again good because I could not bear the evil to eat and eat alone again»!

-Then did many of you eat together in Chalkida, if I remember correctly?

«You remember it well. I then convened the Halkida conference, which was attended by Israel, Lithuania, Serbia, Turkey, Russia, Croatia, Latvia and Germany. These federations as well as Panathinaikos and Iraklis joined FIBA ​​and did not change camp. Then Ivan Mainini resigned as president of the European zone and became interim president with 29 votes out of a total of 50. Then FIBA ​​Europe was created, I became president again with 34-15 and then I was re-elected for a third time.».


-Yes, but in defiance of the power you had and the threatened punishments, you could not face the consolidation of the Euroleague?

«The main problem was that at that time the ISL that managed all the sponsorship and television rights of FIBA ​​and not only collapsed. I remember we met in Nice, France, Stankovic, Bauman, Mainini and I to find a solution, but while we agreed on the position we would take, then everyone had their own agenda! FIBA World held a Mesoamerican stance and Portella and Bertomeu took advantage of this to create the Euroleague».

Photo by: Andreas Papakonstantinou / Tourette Photography

-Then the proposal of Telefonica appeared on the table, which was gigantic for the data of the time, right?

«Yes, but Portela lied! He was talking about a sponsorship of 70,000,000 euros which overnight and magically reduced by half. I was shouting again, but they said I was atherosclerotic and I felt like I was getting graphic. At that time, FIBA ​​made a catastrophic mistake, asking for a percentage from Telefonica’s sponsorship. In other words, it proved that its issue was not moral, sporting and institutional, but financial, and after all this, basketball was handed over unconditionally to the ECA.».

-What else could FIBA ​​do to prevent this from happening?

«I insisted that we should take a hard line. The sports movement had to be cohesive and guardian of the principles and values ​​of sport, but unfortunately we were already in another era, the one I described earlier».


-What is the difference between then basketball and now football?

«Bad lies, football has deeper roots longer history and is a more popular sport. There is also a noticeable difference in the background of the two sports, in the sense that football was born and raised in Europe where principles, traditions and values ​​are strong and timeless. Basketball, on the other hand, is an American sport and therefore relies on spectacle and money. It is exclusively a form of show business».

In your opinion, in such cases, what should remain non-negotiable?

«First and foremost the relationship of sports with society. The umbilical cord that connects the team to the world and its environment must not be broken. Obviously the economic factor plays an important role, but money cannot determine everything. If the Euroleague does turn into a closed league in two years, which will require the teams to leave the national leagues, it will mean complete alienation from the social fabric. Then we will have a commercial product, which will have a registered name and not an origin».


-Do you think that in the future FIBA ​​will want and seek to take the Euroleague under its roof again?

«No, I do not think that will happen. It is sad and mostly disappointing that FIBA ​​is not even discussing this possibility, I think it does not even have it on its agenda, it is just putting national teams in front of the windows to sensitize the masses, without having a vision. The only one who will probably deal with the tournament is if the Euroleague is dissolved, but then I imagine that another player will emerge as it happened now in football.».

In closing, and to joke with what you are advocating and declaring, I see you continue to eat alone !!!

«You lie. I am an academic of the dream who will listen to me and accuse me of being graphic and saying bullshit “!!!

Photo Credits: Andreas Papakonstantinou / Tourette Photography