Zalgiris GM reflects on controlling passionate Olympiacos fans, talks future F4 in Kaunas

Lukas Malinauskas
Staff Writer
2023-05-24 20:02

Despite Kaunas having the smallest market for hosting the EuroLeague Final Four, Zalgiris have proven their capabilities and expressed eagerness to organize future events.

Credit: LKL, BNS, | BasketNews iliustracija/A.Zaikauskas, D. Lukšta
Credit LKL, BNS, | BasketNews iliustracija/A.Zaikauskas, D. Lukšta

The EuroLeague Final Four 2023 in Kaunas witnessed a remarkable sight as the typically green-and-white streets of the city were transformed into a sea of red, thanks to the multitude of passionate Olympiacos Piraeus fans.

The Reds asserted their dominance throughout the city and the Zalgirio Arena, creating some incidents during the semi-final day on Friday. These unruly actions included smoking, disregard for seating arrangements, chair destruction, object throwing, and tossing beer.

On Sunday, the situation was better managed and controlled.

2-pointers this season

Points made: 19,9
Accuracy: 60,3%
Place in standings: 7
Record max: 29
Record min: 11
Most made 2FGs: Aleksandr Vezenkov

"We addressed every issue," Zalgiris GM Paulius Motiejunas told BasketNews. "We held discussions with the police and security personnel. As a precaution, we decided not to sell alcohol on the third floor on Sunday. Additionally, we prohibited the entry of glasses, ensuring that all beverages were consumed in the corridor to prevent any potential harm. During the finals on Sunday, the presence of police was notably increased. Without a doubt, we had significantly better control than we did on Friday."

The Greek supporters celebrated their Friday's victory by igniting pyrotechnics, accompanied by resounding chants.

However, thanks to heightened cautiousness, no fireworks were set off within the highly modern EuroLeague arena situated on Nemunas Island.

"Although there were concerns, it's important to acknowledge the diligent efforts of the security personnel and the police," stated Motiejunas.

"For a week leading up to the event, we held daily meetings and promptly addressed any arising matters. We maintained communication with the Olympiacos fan community. I must admit that we were somewhat unaccustomed to this style of support, as our own fans tend to demonstrate a different kind of support. Therefore, we had to adapt to the Greek mentality," he argued.

"I won't categorize it as good or bad, but it did require us to approach things differently. On Friday, there were some ups and downs. Nevertheless, we managed to maintain control, and on Sunday, we exercised even greater control. Some worries persisted, but we implemented longer security checks, regulated traffic flow, and increased police presence. Fear lingered, but we placed our trust and it paid off."

Following yet another remarkable event, which ended up in Real Madrid's nail-biting win over Olympiacos, the Zalgiris administration quietly formulates ambitious plans for the future.

"As a lighthearted joke within our circles, we aim to organize the Eurovision next. Then we'll have it all," Motiejunas chuckled during his conversation with BasketNews. "Our intention is to showcase the advantages of sports events and sports tourism. We will continue to do so."

Kaunas, and Lithuania as a whole, may have the smallest market for hosting the EuroLeague Final Four. Nevertheless, Zalgiris have sent a clear message regarding their capabilities.

"I cannot determine whether the Final Four will be entrusted to us once again," stated the GM of Zalgiris.

"However, I can assure you that we are eager to organize it again. I believe the city would be willing to contribute, although we haven't engaged in formal discussions yet. We will continue to approach the government and express our intentions. The city is progressing and expanding. With the likelihood of additional hotels, we will undoubtedly submit our application. We desire it, and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience."

Organizing the event incurred a cost of 1.5 million euros for the city of Kaunas. Zalgiris had approached both Vilnius and the national authorities for financial support, but their skeptical stance resulted in a negative response.

The successful event is expected to open doors for future partnerships.

Inside Kaunas Final Four:


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