Vucevic and Fournier: basketball stars on the beautiful game
FIFA.com adds a little basketball into the mix to mark the NBA Finals
Orlando Magic team-mates Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic discuss their second sporting passion
Fournier: "Whatever the sport, the best players are the ones who work hardest"
The NBA Finals are currently in full swing in the USA, with basketball's ultimate prize up for grabs between Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. To mark the occasion, FIFA.com took a time-out from the latest football news to speak with a pair of NBA stalwarts.
France's Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic of Montenegro are prime exponents of the sport Stateside, but both are also long-term fans of the beautiful game – and the Orlando Magic team-mates were delighted to hold forth on their other sporting passion.
**Football in the life of an NBA player Evan Fournier: During the season, our schedule is so tight that I hardly watch any sport, but I do catch a few games when they're broadcast again later. For example, I saw Paris against Barcelona. I watch the big events as well, but I don't get to follow the championship. And, of course, I watch any time France are involved.
Nikola Vucevic: When I was small, I played a lot of football with my friends, but I haven't had the time since I've been in the NBA. Sometimes, I get to play a little in the summer, but not in games against another team because that could be dangerous. I play at the beach or pass and shoot with friends just to have fun. And I play a lot of FIFA! Football is really a passion for me. When I finish my career, I'd love to do something in football. I wouldn't play it instead of basketball, of course, but it's such a passion for me that I can see myself getting involved in it later.
**Virtual football, real excitement Fournier: In the NBA, talking about football is something only the Europeans do. The Americans couldn't care less, except during the World Cup, when everybody talks about it to some extent. But they all know a little about football thanks to the FIFA video game. It's no exaggeration to say that everybody plays it. It's the only way to talk about football with them!
When I have friends over to visit, we play a little after I come home from training. And I also like to play online during the summer. I sign up with my real name and fans add me, so we get to play together and it's quite a lot of fun.
I don't play NBA 2K at all. I find it a little weird to play as yourself, and I could never play as my opponents – impossible! So in the end, I just play football and that suits me fine.
(At the @OrlandoMagic, we're looking for a small forward – could you please send @ECavaniOfficial's CV? In exchange, I'd like to play up front)
**Football idols Fournier: When I was younger, the only football poster on my bedroom wall was a picture of Ronaldo, around the time of the 1998 World Cup. Today, I play in the No10 jersey and it's slightly connected to football, even if that isn't the main reason. My favourite basketball player when I was growing up wore No10. That said, when I played football in the street with my friends, the No9 was the goalscorer, but the No10 was the best player – the playmaker. So there are several reasons for my number: I was born in October, Zizou… it's all linked.
Vucevic: There are lots of players I really like. As I'm a big fan of Juventus, obviously there's Gianluigi Buffon. There's not a lot I can say about him – his name alone is enough. He's a legend, and at 39, he's still the best goalkeeper in the world. It's impressive that he's been able to stay at the top all these years. I met him once when I went to watch a Juventus match and I was really struck by his modesty. He came over to me and I got the impression he was happy to see me. He told me he watches basketball and really likes the way I play. I also have a huge amount of admiration for Francesco Totti. Yes, he played for a big club, but it wasn't one of the best clubs in the world. He could have gone wherever he wanted to win the Champions League and lots of other trophies, but no – he decided to stay at Roma, in his hometown, at his own club, and that's something very special and very rare these days. You have to respect that. Unfortunately, that's something which has lost a little value in sport, nowadays. That's why I respect him so much.
Will Montenegro qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™?
Vucevic: They're second in their qualifying group for the World Cup. That makes me very happy, especially as I know some of the players, like Stevan Jovetic and Stefan Savic. It's pretty special because we're a small country, with only 650,000 people. We don't have the resources to develop young players and we don't have the infrastructure either, but we manage to do a good job anyway. We're never far off in each qualifying campaign, and I think we have a chance. Unfortunately, we lost to Poland, but they're the best team in the group and Jovetic was injured. There are still five matches to play, so we're only halfway through. If Jovetic and Savic play, it's there for the taking. It would be superb if they could get to the World Cup. If not, it wouldn't be a disaster because nobody expects us to qualify.
Basketball and football: any similarities?
Fournier: You're talking about two major sports which have huge resources and lots of infrastructure, so both are the top notch. What I mean by that is that both are very demanding and require a lot of discipline and training. The best players are the ones who work hardest – it's no secret. Whatever the sport, it's more a question of mentality than ability.
Key info*Evan Fournier *Shooting guard, 24, French international, NBA draft: 2012 Favourite football memory: "When France became European champions at EURO 2000 because I supported Brazil during the World Cup. I was only six, so you can't really hold it against me. I had a poster of Ronaldo in my room!"
Nikola Vucevic Centre, 26, Montenegrin international, NBA draft: 2011 Favourite football teams: Juventus, Real Madrid, Olympique Lyonnais, Red Star Belgrade Favourite football memory: "I have so many, but none that really stands out more than the rest. It's been a long time since Juve won the Champions League!"