A pioneering league in Andalucía

Some of the league’s players on one of the Basketball Federation courts.
Some of the league’s players on one of the Basketball Federation courts. / Álvaro Cabrera
  • The over 35s women's basketball competition has just taken place for the fourth consecutive year

A few weeks ago the fourth season of the Over 35s Women’s League of the Malaga delegation of the Andalusian Basketball Federation (FAB) came to an end; this competition was designed for ladies in their thirtes who want to spend some time taking part in the sport they most enjoy.

The competition is a trailblazer in Andalucía and its existence is thanks to the persistence and effort of May Bandrés, former First B (now Feminine League 2) player and sister of the FAB’s delegate in Malaga, Ricardo Bandrés. In just three years, the number of teams taking part has doubled.

Participants in the competition include some veteran basketball players, some of them authentic legends in the province such as Beatriz Díaz-Larrauri, one of only three women from Malaga to play at the top level of this sport. Many members of the eight teams which take part in the competition grew up in famous clubs such as Guindos or Malaga Univesity, but over the years they had given up a sport which they loved, explains Teresa Ruano, who tried on three occasions to try to gain promotion to the Division of Honour (formerly Women’s League) with the Asunción club.

“In my case I lost interest in playing basketball. We tried to reach the Division of Honour several times and we did quite well on a couple of occasions but we never quite made it, for financial reasons. Having put so much into the training, I found that really depressing. I carried on playing for a while at university, but when I finished my degree I had the chance to go and live in America and didn’t think twice. I was involved in basketball there too, but as a trainer,” she says.

Like Teresa, many players in the Over 35 League, women with enormous talent and the desire to work hard and rise as far as possible, have given up because of the major differences which existed, and still exist today, between the female and male versions of this sport. Nevertheless, this league is serving its purpose, although the road that May Bandrés had to travel to create it was certainly not easy. No club in Malaga city was interested in senior women players, and the federation insisted that at least four teams had to register in order to create the league.

“At that time I started to trawl through my contacts list and social media to find women I knew who used to play. In the end we managed to form four teams and then word of mouth and our participation in the Endesa Basket Lover competition did the rest.”

The league only takes place two days a month, and is normally played on Sundays because of family responsibilities, explains May. “At the beginning we only played for one day, but as more teams began to take part we had to increase that to two. We have organised things so that we all play on the same day and in the same place. We try to ensure that the matches are always indoors, because it is difficult to keep postponing thembecause of rain. You have to bear in mind that most of us have children, so we have to fit basketball in with our family commitments.”

An example to follow

In the stands and on the court there is a genuine display of sisterhood, which continues when the game is over: the players meet up for a drink, swapping stories about the past and commenting on the match which they have just played.

The objective of this competition is to have fun, but the women also aim to set an example for their daughters, explains May Bandrés.

“We want them to see that with effort you can achieve things and don’t have to give up your sport when you go to university or get older,” she says. Despite the passing of the years, women’s basketball in Malaga is still in a similar situation to that of 25 years ago, with only the very recently-created Unicaja women’s team for the most promising girls to aspire to join. “The girls have to realise that if they want to take basketball seriously they have to move from here,” says May.

The competition has already become a benchmark in the province, where a men’s league with similar characteristics has also been created, and in Andalucía, where there is nothing else like it.

When these players run onto the court they leave their role as mothers behind and become ‘crack’ players, scoring high marks. Their next challenge is to play in the FIMBA World Championshps. However, for that to happen they would need sponsors and support from the world of basketball, something which has been denied to them on more than one occasion in the past.