Alba Berlin: On their own way (nd-aktuell.de)

Stefanie Grigoleit (left) wants to lead Alba’s young players a bit more. At the same time, she is already working as a youth coach in Berlin.

Photo: imago/Tilo Wiedensoler

When the race to catch up to 54:54 finally reaches its climax two minutes before the end, the audience stands up as one. That’s the norm with the basketball Bundesliga team Alba Berlin, regardless of whether the German men’s champions are playing in the modern arena at the Ostbahnhof or – like on this Saturday evening – the young climbers of the club in the gray Sömmeringhalle with 1960s charm in Berlin. Charlottenburg. Alba is more than ten points behind against the Panthers from Osnabrück. Now it’s your turn again. But it’s not enough to win. The women from Lower Saxony are cleverer and bring a 64:60 over time. The Berliners, on the other hand, narrowly lose for the fourth time in a row.

What the promoted women are still missing is now becoming increasingly clear: »We were a bit spoiled by success in the main round. Now we are losing the tight games. You can see that we don’t have the experience to film a game like this,” says Lena Gohlisch. At 29, the captain is already one of the oldest in the team, which alone has eight teenagers in the squad.

None of them played in the Bundesliga before this season, but Alba doesn’t want to be a points supplier. “If it’s so close, the result is of course bitter. It’s our aim to always win and not just play along,” agrees Henriette Höfermann. The 23-year-old came to Berlin a good five years ago and has made the complete climb to the top German division since Alba has been investing more money in the women’s department.

“In the summer we brought in a few players with Bundesliga experience and then quickly realized that we could keep up. Nevertheless, we remain true to our concept«, says Höfermann. That hasn’t changed for years: Berlin relies on its own youth department, promotes the advancement of talent and gives them the opportunity to grow at the highest level at an early stage. “Today you saw that with Leoni Kreyenfeld,” says Höfermann. “She’s only 18, gets thrown in here and delivers straight away. That’s Alba: If you make a mistake, you’re told and then you get another chance. This support helps.«

With this approach, the Berliners have already managed to turn things around in the men’s division, recently winning the championship three times in a row, although opponents have been able to invest much more money in international stars for years. In the meantime, several young talents promoted by Alba are playing in North America in the NBA. The targets for women are not that high, but they have been raised here for a long time. “We’ve already secured relegation, so we want to reach the playoffs now,” confirms captain Lena Gohlisch.

The fact that the promoted women will also play in the first division next season is not only due to a few surprise victories in the first half of the season, but also to the bankruptcy-related exit of the Rheinland Lions announced last week. The club was only founded in 2020, then immediately promoted and had been in the championship final in the previous season. Now came the end. “It’s really a shame, because it was a great team with many German national players. It was fun watching them. They would have easily become champions,” says Stefanie Grigoleit, herself a long-time national player who is currently ending her career in Berlin.

It is not only clear to them that the case of the Lions must not be repeated. The women’s Bundesliga is already very small with only ten clubs. More clubs are needed that are on solid financial footing and are not dependent on a sponsor, like the Rhinelanders. In this respect, the increased focus of a men’s Bundesliga club on women, as with Alba Berlin – comparable to the development in football – is probably the path that must also be taken in basketball. In addition to Alba, only the Central German BC from Weißenfels is currently represented with men and women in the first division. The other clubs still prefer to rely on a female cheerleading team for the men.

Berlin shows that you can also expand your own base of followers with successful women. Almost 1200 fans were counted in the Sömmeringhalle this Saturday evening. Four-digit values ​​are regularly achieved, a high value in the women’s Bundesliga. The interesting thing about it: It’s not necessarily the male fans who sometimes make the pilgrimage to the female section. “We almost only see new faces here,” says sports director Himar Ojeda, who is responsible for both teams. »We are creating a separate event for women here. That’s important to us.«

Henriette Höfermann likes the atmosphere, even though she has played in the men’s arena before, back then as part of a double match day, but only as a “support act” for the men. “The big arena is still far too far away. Building something stable here is the way to go,” says Höfermann. She is happy that parts of the other team drop by her, like Jaleen Smith and his coach Israel González this Saturday. “But I still prefer the many little girls here in our hall, because that’s exactly what I used to miss: to see that women also play in the top league,” she says. »I’ll show them: You can also go this way. That’s the nice thing.”

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