Taurasi Still Maradona Of Women’s Game

23.03.2013

EUROLEAGUE WOMEN

Diana Taurasi (UMMC Ekaterinburg) blocking Belinda Snell (CCC Polkowice)
Diana Taurasi is a keen football fan, courtesy of her Argentinean roots

When fibaeurope.com correspondent Paul Nilsen met up with UMMC star Diana Taurasi, she found out her all-time idol had made him cry for a fortnight during the 1980's.

Yes, there's only one place to start when you sit down with anyone of Argentinian heritage and that's to talk about football and a certain Diego Armando Maradona.

Taurasi met the soccer legend at the Olympic Games in Beijing and several years later, the very mention of his name is still guaranteed to bring the broadest of approving smiles to her face.

"Oh yeah, he's still my idol and the man we all look up to in Argentina," said the guard.

"He remains our biggest icon and he's one of the greatest sports figures of all-time.

"I'm an absolute die-hard soccer fan and you'll find me following the sport as close as I would ever do with what's happening in the NBA for example.

"Those two times when Argentina won the World Cup were incredible and the last one from 1986 is especially stuck in the memory - as well as looking back on the footage from 1978 too.

"Those are very special moments for me."

By scoring a wonder goal and another via an illegal handball when he controversially punched the ball into the net to eliminate England en-route to the top of the podium, Maradona had left me distraught as an eleven-year-old.

I then explained to Taurasi how I hadn't been able to accept the now infamous handball goal, something he later described as being ‘The hand of God'.

And, whilst briefly sympathetic, she couldn't help her passion for all things Argentinian rising back to the fore.

"That first was probably the greatest goal of all-time," she said with real purpose.

"And, that goal from ‘God' was probably the second best of all-time - well at least if you ask an Argentinian," she joked, perhaps trying to erase my childhood pain with a light-hearted moment.

But what would actually mean more to Taurasi, hitting a winning shot in a Championship basketball game, or scoring the winning goal in a World Cup Final?

She declared, "I don't actually know which would be bigger to tell the truth, because the World Cup just takes on a different level of meaning altogether for me."

Back on track with basketball, the four-time winner of the EuroLeague Women is preparing herself for an astonishing fifth Final in seven years when she steps out against Fenerbahce.

"I have really fond memories of past EuroLeague Women Finals and it's always the case when you win things," she explained.

"Beyond that, I think it's more about the journey that you undertake just to get here - it makes you appreciate it.

"It's always such a long EuroLeague Women season and particularly now when you have to play a number of games at the event rather than just a semi-final.

32. Diana Taurasi (UMMC Ekaterinburg)
Diana Taurasi has made a habit of making EuroLeague Women Finals with Sunday marking her fifth in seven years

"It's gruelling, but makes this kind of opportunity feel even more special and especially since Ekaterinburg haven't won the title in such a long time."

"I still get so excited for these type of games but now have a totally different perspective on things," continued Taurasi.

"I've learned to use all of those past experiences to calm myself down a little bit and relax more heading into this type of game.

"It's also important that we have other people on this team who know what it takes to win EuroLeague Women titles, players like Silvia [Dominguez] and Anete [Jekabsone].

"We definitely have a lot of experience."

It was perhaps written in the stars that should UMMC make the title game, they would end up facing one of her ex-teams, having played at Sparta&K M.R. Vidnoje, Galatasaray and of course, Fenerbahce.

Genuinely respectful and appreciative of the skills Fenerbahce possess, Taurasi made a specific point of praising her former club.

"Fenerbahce have had a great year and they have put together a really, really good team" she said.

"I think it's fitting to play them in the Final, because they have been one of the best this season and it should be a great game for us both."

There's little doubt the stellar-talented Taurasi is likely to have a significant say in the destiny of the coveted trophy.

After all, she's a player who former EuroLeague Women winning coach Laszlo Ratgeber continually referred to as "the Diego Maradona of women's basketball"'.

Even now, there's still no higher compliment than that as far as Taurasi is concerned.

 


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