His presence at one end of the bench is a common image in every Unicaja game. Mario Bárbara, physiotherapist of the green club, it is a classic of the club The Guindos, which he arrived in November 1993 to uninterruptedly watch over these last 30 years for the health of the players from the first green and purple squad and also from the quarry.
Thousands of anecdotes, experiences, bad and good moments, joys and sadness… Three decades go a long way. She has worked with more than 300 players and with all the technicians who have passed through the green bench: Javier Imbroda, Pedro Ramirez, Bozidar Maljkovic, Paco Alonso, Sergio Scariolo, Aito Garcia Reneses, Chus Mateo, Luis Casimiro, Jasmin Repesa, Joan Plaza, Fotis Katsikaris and now Ibon Navarro.
A lifetime that allows him to boast of being the only composer who has been present in all 5 titles that the club has conquered throughout its history. I was in Vrsac when Unicaja won the Korac Cup 2000in the Zaragoza King’s Cup of 2005in the League title in Vitoria of 2006in the Eurocup 2017 in Valencia and also last February in the Badalona Cup 2023. Only the club’s press officer, Mariscal Roseequals him in this special record.
Mario remembers his arrival at the club. «I played in the youth team until the summer of 1992. I finished my degree in physiotherapy and got my first job contract in the Regional Hospital of Antequera. In November 1993, the club called me to work in the youth team. It was the time of Alejandro Burgos, Juanma Martín, Manolo Bazán… I knew them all very well because I had spent many years playing in the quarry. I said yes and started my time at Unicaja, at first alternating it with my work in Antequera,” he explains.
Very soon he made the jump to the first team. «In June of 97, John Rodriguez He told me that there was the option of working with the first team, but I had to leave the hospital. The truth is that I didn’t even think about it, basketball is my passion, it’s what I like and I accepted the challenge,” she says.
Bárbara’s day-to-day life has changed a lot in all these years at the club, but the work philosophy is always the same: «The goal is to take care of the players, establish injury prevention plans, immediate attention when any eventuality arises…
Barbara recognizes that she also Sometimes he acts as a shoulder on which the players lean. «I don’t like to say that it is psychological work because that is what psychologists are for, but it is true that the physiotherapy room is a complex place. There the players relax. I have learned in this time that you have to listen to them. When someone tells you that something hurts them, you have to believe them.».
In the very long list of top-level basketball players that Mario has taken care of throughout this time, there is everything. With higher and lower pain threshold, with more or less reluctance to play with discomfort. The physiotherapist only wants to remember those who are hardest on pain. «There are many, but one that comes to mind and that we have now is Alberto Diaz. He is very resilient, very aware of his day-to-day work, taking care of his body. Nacho Rodriguez is another who was capable of playing with pain. I have seen him play with a broken foot and a broken rib. Children He is another capable of not stopping even if he had multiple physical problems. Of foreigners I could say Nemanja Nedovicanother capable of enduring pain and being able to play. Jayson Granger, He is also from this group of tough ones.
Mario feels privileged and highly respected at the club by all the technicians he has worked with. «I have always felt valued by all the coaches. Maybe some consult you more than others, but no one has gotten involved in my work,” he says. Remember everyone with affection, but Boza Maljkovic The change he made to the staff stands out. «CWith him there was a change at the work level. He gave us a boost in sports and professionally ».
After three decades on the team, Mario Barbara It is difficult for him to keep the best game he has ever experienced. «Maybe those of the Copa del Rey in Badalona in February. Beating Barça and Madrid is something historic. If not, I would have told you the comeback in Valencia in the final of the Eurocup 2017. It was incredible. One from many years ago too, the play off against Tau de Scariolo».
At the time of choosing worst, No doubt. «The first of the BCL quarterfinals two seasons ago in Laziness. Especially the first quarter. We were losing 29-4 and I didn’t know where to go,” she remembers.
¿Have you ever thought about quitting this time? Switch to a job with less sacrificial hours and trips away from home? In 30 years there is time to think about everything. «If I think about my wife and my daughters, the truth is that they deserve a different type of life.. And that has to come sooner or later. I have thought about quitting many times, but thanks to them I can afford the life I have led, without weekends, no Christmas, no Easter, no holidays when others have them… My wife has played a fundamental role in my professional development. My parents have also been very important, thanks to them I was able to study and also play.. My father instilled in me his passion for basketball ».
Without yet thinking about goodbye, Mario understands that one day he will have to step aside. «I don’t look long term. I want to continue updating and providing a good service to players. One day the end will come and I will make way for young people who maintain the commitment and passion that the team needs.
Lastly, as a veteran as he is, he gives some advice to everyone around the team. «This goes in cycles and we must evaluate what we are currently experiencing. I think we are starting this cycle well, but we know that there are stages of success and less success. ANDThe challenge we all have is to maintain the level of excellence that the team deserves and we must all enjoy this moment. So be it…
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