Around 2,000 of the Greens’ fans made their voices heard inside Mercedes-Benz Arena in Round 7.
Panathinaikos felt at home in Berlin, clinched first road win
Panathinaikos Athens had little reason to be optimistic after its two first two road games of the 2023-24 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season. In Round 3, Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul defeated the Greens 83-69 in Turkiye, reaching a 25-point difference early in the fourth quarter. Then, last week, FC Barcelona downed Panathinaikos 80-72 at Palau Blaugrana, with the Greens trailing 75-47 after 32 minutes.
But, in Berlin, it was a far more positive experience for Panathinaikos as it won for the first time on the road this season. The visitors came away from Mercedes-Benz Arena with a solid 85-99 victory, which included scoring 60 points in the first half with out-of-this-world percentages from all distances.
Incredible support from its fans
Despite playing 1,800 kilometers away from Athens, the Greens felt like the home team at certain points during the night, especially during a first half that saw Ergin Ataman’s side play towards the 2,000-plus Panathinaikos fans that had made the trip to Mercedes-Benz Arena.
Given that the total attendance was 13,247, the fourth highest in ALBA’s EuroLeague history, according to Darius Garuolis, a significant number of that is down to the Panathinaikos fans. More than an hour before tipoff, the Greens’ supporters filled the stands at ALBA’s home, while some of them even went to their team’s hotel to offer some extra encouragement to the players before they made their way to the arena.
Their support was something Coach Ataman and his squad were well aware of, making them feel comfortable with the atmosphere despite playing far away from their home court, OAKA.
“Thank you very much to all Greek people who arrived here, [to those] that live here, [those that arrived] from Greece, from Athens and from everywhere else. It’s a good victory for us because it’s not easy to beat ALBA here,” Ataman stated in the post-game flash interview.
Ataman, Grigonis want more
The Turkish tactician knows how important the fans’ support is for his team, and he hopes for a similar level of backing in the Greens’ upcoming games at home.
“I hope that next week, all of our supporters, Panathinaikos’s fans, will [make it] a sellout at OAKA for these two home-court games [against Zalgiris Kaunas on Wednesday and Virtus Segafredo Bologna on Friday],” he added.
It was a particularly special night for Panathinaikos guard Marius Grigonis, who spent the 2017-2018 season with ALBA. On his return to Berlin, the 29-year-old guard became one of his team’s main weapons, finishing with 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting from behind the arc and a PIR of 19. He also gave credit to the Panathinaikos fans that accompanied the team.
“At OAKA it’s a bit louder, but I’m happy [they were here],” said Grigonis. “I think they probably live here in Berlin or something, because last year it was the same. I’m always happy [they come to cheer us on because] Greek fans are really passionate about basketball and it’s always fun.”
Grigonis, the same as Ataman, called for this kind of support in the Greens’ upcoming two home games in the double-round week: “I want to ask them to keep this up. They are excellent and we really enjoy their support. Basketball is really fun when someone is supporting you.”
After a summer of upheaval at OAKA, with a new head coach arriving in Ataman and a plethora of new signings, things seem to slowly clicking into place for Panathinaikos. Now that it has its first road win under its belt and improved to a 3-4 record in the process, a successful double-round week could see the Greens’ momentum continue to grow and grow.