Basketball fever is about to sweep the region as European Basketball Week returns for the 20th edition with more than 250 events set to take place on a local and national level.
A variety of basketball activities will be held from 25 November to 3 December, including regional tournaments that are played in a Unified format and put a special emphasis on female participation.
Organised by Special Olympics in partnership with FIBA Europe and FIBA Foundation and recently co-funded by Toyota Motors Europe, European Basketball Week is held by the end of every November in the Europe and Eurasia region with the goal to bring more attention to the topic of inclusion and break down stereotypes of intellectual disabilities through team sports.
This year, more than 25,000 participants from more than 35 countries are expected to take part, with the biggest EBW events scheduled in Italy, Poland, Ireland, Romania and Spain.
“Special Olympics Europe Eurasia is excited to celebrate this anniversary edition of European Basketball Week with an impressive number of participants across more than 35 nations across the region. We are delighted to witness so much momentum and excitement throughout the region, proving that we are on the right path toward bringing lasting change through sport.”
“This year’s event will run until 3 December, which marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. There is no better way to celebrate such a day than by shooting hoops and teaming up for inclusion, both on and off the court.”
What makes the 20th edition especially exciting is the growing number of female players and Unified basketball teams participating, formed by an equal number of players of similar abilities and age with and without intellectual disabilities. This format is one of the cornerstones of European Basketball Week, helping to build awareness and break down barriers while further engaging more youth in basketball.
“FIBA and its Foundation are proud to support our long-term Partner and further promote Special Olympics basketball activities featuring inclusion. It is part of our strategy of growing the Basketball For Good and FIBA family by making our beautiful sport accessible to all.”
One regional tournament of particular note this year is the Special Olympics West Balkans 3x3 Unified Basketball Tournament. This event is a cooperation between the regional UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF)-supported project Youth 4 Inclusion, Equality and Trust and Special Olympics, and will be held in Tirana, Albania from 2 to 3 December.
Eight teams will play in the inclusive tournament. In addition to four teams from different cities in Albania, teams from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and North Macedonia will take part.
In anticipation of the event, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Special Olympics Programs in the west Balkan countries helped to facilitate regular training sessions for the teams so that they could prepare and fulfil the qualification requirements for the tournament. For example, the four teams representing the host had the opportunity to take part in a national tournament with the help of UNFPA in Albania, and thus hone their skills before European Basketball Week.
The players in the West Balkans 3x3 Unified Basketball Tournament are between 18 and 25 years old. Three out of the five team members have an intellectual disability.
In addition to its focus on unity, the tournament is in line with EBW’s broader efforts to support gender equality. As such, every team at the West Balkans event is required to have a minimum of two female players on the roster.
This regional event builds on the success of the 3x3 FIBA Open hosted annually by FIBA Foundation in Mies Switzerland, where Special Olympics teams took part in last 5 editions and helped implement 3x3 basketball across a number of SO Programs across Europe including Albania.
While much of the action will take place on the courts, the activities of European Basketball Week 2023 will not be limited to player participation. There will be customized activities to support and engage refugees that are planned in Poland, Romania, Moldova and Italy as part of the Unified with Refugees initiative.
As in previous editions, several European clubs and basketball leagues will include demonstration games featuring Special Olympics athletes. Their coaches and players, as well as those from participating national federations, will also offer training clinics for the inclusive basketball teams or specifically female teams.