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How EFSI benefits SMEs in Europe - Cooperative Bank of Thessaly case study: Trikala Fountas Basketball Academy (Greece), sport

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“Basketball gave me two things: recognition, which, in a small town like Trikala, is very important; and life-skills: Basketball can teach you teamwork, discipline, the value of hard work, professionalism…These are transferable skills that are invaluable in life,” says Giorgos Fountas, founder of Trikala Fountas Basketball Academy (TFBA), and local basketball hero in Trikala.

“Kids need to learn what a team is, because society is a team as well. If kids understand and learn certain basic things early on, they will stay with them until the end. I’m talking about, for example, how to function within a certain framework, respect the rules, be disciplined. We saw it during coronavirus crisis - how as a society, we followed the rules and avoided disaster.”

TFBA is a basketball academy that works with children 4-16 year olds and also adults who want to improve their game. The Academy offers both team and individual training, including running its own teams. “The environment is very professional,” explains Giorgos, who played as point guard for Trikala BC at the highest level of Greek basketball and also worked for a bank for 15 years. Bringing the two experiences together, he founded TFBA in 2017, making his passion his job. “There’s not many private basketball academies like us in Greece, so we’re very proud of our work. We try to give the kids opportunities that they would never get otherwise: summer camps all over Greece, a 4-day trip abroad… I wish I had these kinds of opportunities when I was young…”

Giorgos also runs a section with around 30 children with special abilities, working with doctors to meet their needs. “When I leave the court after working with these kids, I feel so much lighter. It’s the best part of the job and it’s a huge pleasure for these kids.”

With the support of an EU-guaranteed loan from the Cooperative Bank of Trikala, backed by the EIF, Giorgos was able to complete the construction of an indoor arena within 3 months. “Up until we built our own facilities, we were entirely dependent on the local municipality. Training facilities were overcrowded, overbooked…it was difficult. Now, with our own court, we can work from 9am through to 10pm non-stop, 7 days a week. The Academy has really taken off.”

To generate more income, the facility, which is called Fountas Club 14, doubles as an events venue, offering, beyond basketball and volleyball, also a space to host parties, concerts, lectures, or even dancing classes. “We now have over 400 kids, so things are working well…It gives us the strength to keep pushing ahead. We want to add our own gym and physiotherapy space as well eventually,” adds Giorgos.

Company: Trikala Fountas Basketball Academy (Greece)

Type of business: Sport

EIF financing: EaSI Guarantee Financial Instrument, EFSI

Financial intermediary: Cooperative Bank of Thessaly

For further information abiout EIF intermediaries in Greece, please refer to: http://www.eif.org/what_we_do/where/el

 

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