Geri Ivanova: I knew I had to leave Bulgaria to fulfill my dreams – ELTE BEAC Kosárlabda

Geri Ivanova: I knew I had to leave Bulgaria to fulfill my dreams

Our young basketball player, Geri Ivanova joined our team last summer. Although this is her first season abroad, Geri is not new to living independently and she’s been aware for a while that to build her career would only be possible abroad. We were chatting about how her career started, about her plans and most cherished memories as a basketball player while enjoying a cup of coffee.

„I got to know basketball when I was in 4th grade. We had PE exams at school, and I asked my dad, who is also a former basketball player, to show me some moves for the exam. The PE teacher-examiner was also a basketball coach, and after the exam he told me that I should seriously consider trying basketball. I fell in love with basketball, so I gave up tennis that I had been playing for 3 years before, because I felt that a team sport was something that I was looking for.”

Geri is telling me that being a professional female basketball player in Bulgaria is not easy. There are relatively few junior and adult teams in the top league, so when Geri made the decision to build a career as a basketball player, she had to make hard decisions.

„In the first two years I played in my hometown, then I went to a bigger town nearby for basketball practices. I still lived at home, but commuted to practices and games. I wasn’t yet 14, when I went to Sofia to play there in team Champion 2006. Sofia is about 200 kms from my hometown, so I moved there on my own.

It was a hard decision, my Mum was really worried, but my Dad supported me, encouraging me that this was what I had to do. It was tough, but I never regretted it.”

The Bulgarian capital city was not the final destination for Geri, who spent the last few years at a different club before coming to Hungary.

„I played in Sofia for 4 years, and then I joined team Beroe Stara Zagora. I had been playing there for five years before I came to BEAC. After two years I became a professional player there. It is one of the best teams in Bulgaria.”

While Geri was with the team Beroe, they won the Bulgarian Championship and the Bulgarian Cup but it became clear for her that in order to develop professionally she’d need to look for new opportunities – and need to look abroad.

„The problem in Bulgaria is that there are only two strong, professional teams, the other teams are much weaker. After playing for years in one of these top teams, I felt that I needed a change and I wanted to try myself in a different team, in a different environment so that I could develop and become a better player. It was obvious that I have to leave Bulgaria to fulfil my dream.”

After having made this decision Geri asked her agent to find her a strong team with a  prominent position in the championship where she would be able to develop professionally.

„I asked my agent to look for opportunities abroad. There were a couple of options when BEAC came into the picture. I tried to Google the team, found some information and also knew that the Hungarian championship is really strong, so there was really no question of me coming here. I also talked to some of my friend who’d visited Budapest earlier, and they all said that it was a beautiful city and I was gonna love it. They were right!”

After signing the contract Geri and before she joined in the team practices, she’d tried to use every minute for being ready for the challenge. As an added bonus, her arrival in Hungary was a memorable event.

„I practiced the whole summer before I came to Hungary and also learned some basic words, so at least I could say hi. Adam and Bia met me at the airport when I arrived, late at night, in Budapest. Adam forgot to bring the keys to my apartment, he regretted it so much, but I was really happy, that I could have a sightseeing tour on my very first day.”

Though young, Geri has defining experiences connected to the basketball court, among them the top one being the youth EC participation.

„My biggest dream and greatest memory in basketball was when we won the U20 B division European Championship in 2019 with the national team. We were all really motivated to win a medal.

We were a small, skinny team, not typical basketball players, but we had really big hearts.

We only lost one game, against Finland, in the group phase, but in the finals we beat them. I’ve kept in touch with some of my teammates, my best friend is now playing in Spain.”

Geri has fond memories of her first BEAC encounters too. Although she was aware that in the previous years our teams ended up at the bottom of the league, she was optimistic about the upcoming year, and her optimism was reinforced in the Sio Cup.

„My first experience here with BEAC, was the Sió Cup, that took place only a couple of days after I arrived. We played tight games against Szekszárd and PEAC, which was surprising, because they are stronger teams.

But I got optimistic after the Cup, because it became obvious that this team can play really good basketball.

I knew that BEAC was among the weaker teams before, but I have a „championship mentality”, and I want to win all games that we play.”

She is also very clear that there are plenty of challenges ahead of her. She views the foreign contract as a decisive step in building her career, she is aware of the areas she has to improve in.

„I know that my main weakness is that I am not physical enough. The Hungarian league is much more physical than the championship I came from. I need to work on this. I would love to be 10 cms taller, so I could be a shooting guard, but I think I missed that by now. My greatest dream in basketball is to play in the Euroleague one day. I want to challenge myself to see if I was good enough to play against the best players in Europe. This is my main goal since I decided that basketball would be my work for a long time.”

 

 

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