FIATC Joventut, the return of a historic basketball team
FIATC Joventut was one of the most important basketball teams in Spain and Europe throughout the Seventies and the Nineties, but an economic crisis took them out of basketball’s elite in 1998. Sixteen years later, Joventut, known as 'la Penya', has completed one of the best first halves of the regular season in its history, is playing entertaining basketball and has impressed everybody at the King Cup in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, winning against the host Herbalife Gran Canaria and coming very close to defeating Real Madrid and reaching the final. Along with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, is one of only three Spanish teams to have won the Euroleague. With its ups and downs, the club has been changing its commercial name since the 1970s, being known as Montigalà Joventut, Festina Joventut, DKV Joventut and FIATC Joventut, among others.
Badalona (CNA).- The city of Badalona has a special relationship with basketball. This town, located next door to Barcelona municipality, has had teams in the Spanish First Division throughout its history such as CB Círcol Catòlic, CB Cotonificio, CB Sant Josep and Club Joventut Badalona. Joventut, known as ‘la Penya’, was founded in 1930 and is nowadays the only team from Badalona surviving in professional basketball. The club has been changing its commercial name since the 1970s, being known as Montigalà Joventut, Festina Joventut and DKV Joventut, among others. With its ups and downs, FIATC Joventut, along with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, is one of only three Spanish teams to have won the Euroleague.
Club Joventut Badalona had its best moments as a team in the Seventies and the Nineties when the ‘Penya’ was able to compete with Barça and Madrid not only on the court but also financially. Big name players wore the famous green and black jersey of the team during those years as Joventut won three Spanish Leagues, two Spanish King Cups, and two Spanish Supercups.
Even when it had a significant budget, the team was keen to maintain its main philosophy: develop young players in the academy. Some of the best players of the era were formed in the lower categories of the club such as Rafael Jofresa, Josep Maria Margall and Jordi Villacampa.
The greatest achievement of the team was winning the Euroleague in 1994. The ‘Penya’, under the direction of legendary coach Zeljko Obradovic, beat Olympiakos (59-57) just two years after the hard loss in the final against Partizan Belgrade (70-71). With this trophy, FIATC Joventut became the first Catalan team to win the top European competition.
The official sponsor of the team, Festina, left the club in 1998 and then all the financial problems began and the ‘Penya’ lost the financial power to compete with the two big Spanish teams. After nearly 30 years fighting for everything, the club had to survive in the Spanish First Division league.
NBA players Ricky Rubio and Rudy Fernández were trained at Joventut's academy
Rudy Fernández, now at Real Madrid and a former NBA player, and Ricky Rubio, currently at the Minnesota Timberwolves, were the big reason why FIATC Joventut went back to the elite of Spanish teams some ten years ago. Two players formed in the academy of Joventut, Fernández and Rubio are one of the most remembered duos in Badalona.
Under the leadership of Aíto Garcia Reneses, one of the best coaches in Spanish basketball history, between 2006 and 2008, with Fernández and Rubio leading the team, the club won three trophies, two of them European competitions. But in 2008, Fernández decided to move to the NBA and in 2010 Rubio was traded to FC Barcelona, a rival team.
Financial problem hit Joventut once again
Once again, FIATC Joventut took a step back and financial problems hit the club hard again. With a limited budget and financial issues, the team was focused on maintaining its presence in the Spanish league.
The ‘Penya’ kept believing in its academy during these rough times and were able to develop its youngsters as they did in the past. Coach Salva Maldonado joined FIATC Joventut in 2011 and has remained true to this philosophy.
Mixing veteran players with youngsters from the academy, Maldonado found the perfect formula to start his project in Badalona. The target for Joventut was to go back to the top of the table but in his first three years at the ‘Penya’, Maldonado finished each season with a balance of 16 victories and 18 losses.
This summer, FIATC Joventut signed two important players, Sergi Vidal and Demond Mallet, who joined the veteran core of the team along with Albert Miralles, Sitapha Savané and Tariq Kirksay. These signings have boosted the team.
A promising season
The coach of FIATC Joventut said in pre-season that his team had the potential “to play in the Spanish King Cup”, a competition using the Final Eight format where the top eight teams from the Liga Endesa at the end of the first half of the regular season qualify and participate in a play-off at one venue, over four days, eventually producing a winner.
The start of the season for the ‘Penya’ was very impressive, winning seven of their ten first games. FIATC Joventut is one of the biggest surprises of the league and is one of the most spectacular teams of Liga Endesa. Also, they are considered to have one of the best defences in the competition.
The club from Badalona has beaten leaders Unicaja and rival FC Barcelona in this first half of the season and are able to qualify as a seed for the Spanish King Cup. FIATC Joventut has had the best start ever of the club with 13 wins and 4 losses after the first 17 games of the league.
“The team wants to live and enjoy this moment”, said Maldonado after the ‘Penya’ qualified for the Spanish King Cup. “I don’t want to bring the euphoria down. We haven’t had a big crisis over the four years I’ve been in Badalona but we have had to fight to take some steps forward”.
After a superb first half of the season, FIATC Joventut has impressed everybody at the King Cup as they won against the host Herbalife Gran Canaria and were came very close to defeating Real Madrid and reaching the final. Now, the focus of the team turns to keep working and qualify as soon as possible for the Playoffs.