Epoupa loving Galatasaray passion and learning from Captain Alben
ISTANBUL (EuroCup Women/FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018) – French guard Olivia Epoupa continues to dazzle fans with her electrifying game and now she is ready to lift EuroCup Women silverware with Galatasaray.
FIBA.basketball caught up with the playmaker ahead of the big game to find out more about her first season outside of her homeland, how she is handling life in Istanbul, learning from Turkish club legend Isil Alben – as well as looking at the prospect of a first FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup appearance with France.
Istanbul is intense at a club like Galatasaray. They say you need a special and tough mentality to be a success?
Galatasaray is, without a doubt, an emblematic Turkish club which has been part of the most prestigious European teams for many years now. As a player, it is definitely important to take upon myself the pressure linked with the club’s objectives. The supporters here are passionate about their club and therefore expect a lot from us on the court. We have to give everything we have, as they give us a lot. They truly are amazing and their love for the club has been passed on from generation to generation - from adults to youngsters. They are not reluctant to travel to venues all over Europe to support Galatasaray. This really is unbelievable and you’ve got to see it to believe it.
How important has it been for your evolution on the court to play a season outside of France?
I was immediately accepted; my integration went smoothly. The club and the staff helped me feel confident and at ease. I feel that the coach [Marina Maljkovic] trusts me and gives me responsibilities. I keep on making headway in different aspects of the game and it is definitely thanks to her. For my first year abroad and in these conditions, I am thrilled!
Galatasaray have again been playing with two quality point guards in you and Isil Alben at the same time. How does this dynamic work on the court and how important is it for Galatasaray to have a legend of the club like Isil?
It is true that from the beginning of the season, I have been on the court with the captain - not all the time, but most of the time. Playing alongside her undoubtedly helps me make progress. As she gives me advice on and off the court, I can only get better. I feel pretty lucky actually as she is an extraordinarily skilled player. We have a great chemistry and I guess that it makes our collective strength. We rely on each other. Working, learning and sharing with her is a tremendous experience. She is an exceptionally skilled player but she also has a big heart! Everything she does on the court, she does it for the sake of the team. Thus, learning is an inevitable process. What she has been doing with the Turkish team and with the club here for many years is simply breathtaking. She is an emblematic player.
So, Coach Maljkovic. Tell us about her qualities and ethos?
Coach Maljkovic is a genuinely charismatic person with a great poise and composure. She is always striving for perfection and, as a result, she is a demanding and meticulous coach during practices and ball games. We work hard with her so as to make progress collectively as well as individually. She also likes to talk to us on a daily basis. We can have conversations about plenty of things. Additionally, she is extremely respectful toward her technical staff. I remember one of the things she told me in the beginning of the season: ‘You must respect my staff as much as you respect me’. As a player, being by her side really is a pleasure. It helps me develop as a player. One of her strengths is to trust the roster and be fair, honest, no matter what the circumstances are.
EuroCup Women and a Final against Reyer Venezia is almost here. What are your thoughts on the game and your opponents?
This is a Final and both teams will be willing to lift the trophy after the two games. We are facing the team of Venice which is very talented and play extraordinarily well collectively speaking. We are preparing this Final so as to be as thorough and focused as we can, regarding the action plan we will set up along with the staff.
Let's finish with the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in Tenerife. What do you think of your group and personally..what will you be looking for at this tournament?
This is an indubitable competitive FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2018 with high-calibre teams. In terms of our group, I believe we will have to play each and every game with the same focus, determination and execution. We must show our seriousness – regardless of who we will have to play against. Personally, I hope it will be my first Women’s Basketball World Cup with the senior team. I will bring my A-game to be part of the group and proudly represent my country in the competition.
You can follow Olivia Epoupa via @OliviaEpoupa