Just a matter of weeks ago it was just an idea. Now, though, it’s a reality. No longer will young female basketball players be forced to move abroad to follow their dreams after Malaga’s basketball club announced last week that they would become only the fourth top-flight side to have a women’s team.
Unicaja join Valencia, Barcelona and Estudiantes in creating a women’s side and will be competing in the upcoming campaign in Primera Nacional, the third division, it was announced on Friday.
The league restarts in September and will see Unicaja come up against two other local sides in the shape of Alhaurín de la Torre and Mijas Gamarra.
The hard work, though, is only beginning. Though their place has been confirmed, the make-up of the squad is unclear. Directors are already in dialogue with various teams across Malaga province to try to secure the faces that will lead the new project.
A new academy
The new project also goes beyond the creation of a senior team, with an all-new academy set to be developed, along with three youth teams at different levels, all bearing the Unicaja name.
The same will happen with the men’s side and both will share facilities, though with Joan Plaza’s side having to deal with a congested fixture list next year now that they are back competing in the Euroleague, it is likely that the women’s side will play at the Los Guindos pavilion, close to the Martín Carpena arena on Malaga’s west side.
While the club works on signing players, putting together technical staff and organising training sessions, details of the project will be unveiled at press conferences over the course of the coming weeks.
On Tuesday, the first of such meetings took place as representatives from the province’s various basketball teams were brought together to be informed of the club’s intentions.
Unicaja CB’s president, Eduardo García, stressed that the activities of the women’s side would mirror those of the men’s and hoped that it would prove to become a benchmark for the sport in the region.
However, he was quick to point out that Unicaja wouldn’t be acting alone, and that the work of other clubs around the area was key. “We want to learn from the rest of the clubs and continue to grow, little by little. We are ambitious about the future but we recognise that the grassroots are fundamental to the project we are starting.”
SUR spoke to some of the province’s biggest stars over the years Patricia Soler, Claudia Alonso and Carmen Ortiz, who were all delighted by this “great forward step”, in the words of the latter.
Soler, a Spain international currently playing for Estudiantes, described it as “a big step”, admitting that had the option been open to her as a young player, she wouldn’t have had to “take in the whole of Spain” in pursuit of a career. “It would be a dream for me to put on the Unicaja shirt,” she said.
Claudia Alonso, who plays for ABDA, believes this project is special because “it will have significant financial backing” - another typical obstacle for women in the sport.