|15 January 2014|
BASKETBALL IN EUROPE
|Finland was named "Team of the Year" at the 7th annual Finnish Sports Gala |
Basketball was the centrepiece of the 7th annual Finnish Sports Gala on Tuesday evening, with the Finnish men's team, who go by the moniker, "Wolf Pack", taking out the "Team of the Year" award.
The Wolf Pack silenced critics across Europe in 2013, finishing in an unprecedented 9th at EuroBasket 2013 in Slovenia, defeating current FIBA World Championship runners-up Turkey, Olympic Games bronze medallists Russia and perennial European powerhouse Greece along the way.
Team veteran and long-time captain Hanno Möttölä, was visibly touched by the award.
"Finland is filled with great teams and I am thankful for the fact that our work is appreciated. This is a great honour," Möttölä stated.
"I have a long career behind me and this is by far the greatest team I have gotten to play with. We can't capture the essence of this team by only talking about one EuroBasket tournament, it's been a long journey to this point."
The awards however did not stop there with long-time head coach Henrik Dettmann receiving his second Finnish "Coach of the Year" award, following on from 2002 when he received the award in recognition of his achievements with the German national team who he led to the 2002 FIBA World Championship.
On being named the winner, Dettmann approached the stage with his entire coaching staff, in a poignant moment that showed the gratitude in which Dettmann holds his assistants.
"I want to thank my players for all the work they have done. I also want to thank my staff for doing all the invisible work. Without my staff I wouldn't be here now," stated Dettmann.
Dettmann was not the only basketball coach to be celebrated on the night. Former Finnish national team head coach Kalevi Tuominen, who took his team to the 1964 Olympics and 6th spot at EuroBasket 1967 was handed an award acknowledging his legendary career.
It was not just the staff and players who were being rewarded for their achievements but also their fans. Up to 2,000 blue-and-white clad fans could be seen and heard cheering on their team in Koper and Ljubljana. On account of this, the head of the Wolf Pack fan group, Risto Virtanen and Aleksi Valavuori accepted the "Sports Culture Achievement of the Year" award on behalf of all fans who made the trip south to Slovenia to urge on their team.