Finland 'retire' the number 6 jersey
HELSINKI (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - The Finnish Basketball Federation have announced the playing retirement of the number 6 jersey, which will now instead be worn solely by the team's sixth player - the fans.
The move, a first among international basketball federations, is a sign of appreciation from the Finnish Basketball Federation for their now famous traveling fans, known as the 'Susijengi' (wolf pack).
The Susijengi have become an ever-present sight at FIBA EuroBaskets and FIBA Basketball World Cups since 2013, when Finnish fans traveled en masse to support their team in the Slovenian port city, Koper for the Group Phase of FIBA EuroBasket 2013. They helped lift their team to an unexpected second-placed finish in their group, ahead of the likes of Greece, Turkey and Russia.
The number of traveling fans reached the thousands one year later during the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, whilst in 2015, they were again turning out in a wave of blue and white, this time for the Group Phase of FIBA EuroBasket 2015 in Montpellier.
"Our long-term work has brought concrete results on basketball courts," commented long-serving national team head coach Henrik Dettmann. "We are extremely happy with the fact that our story has touched so many. The finest thing of all is that this has become our common story - Susijengi are known for both their play, and their fans."
Finland will begin their build-up to hosting FIBA EuroBasket 2017 on July 21, when they host an internal scrimmage. No tickets for the game will be sold, rather 1,300 fans will be selected at random from the Federation's 6th Player database, or if they are a member of the official Susijengi Fan Club. The FIBA EuroBasket 2017 trophy will also be at the game, as part of the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Trophy Tour.