ACB: Simon Birgander, the Swedish giant who dominates the ACB and who could have died in the Thailand tsunami: “If my grandmother hadn’t had cancer…” | ACB 2023


The center of UCAM Murcia, leader in league ratings, reveals the episode that marked his childhood and talks about the radical change in his career after leaving Joventut: “I had to leave Tomic’s shadow”

Birgander, during a game this season.
Birgander, during a game this season.ACB PHOTO
  • Classification This is the Endesa League

I’m going to tell you an interesting story. Simon Birgander (Helsinborg, Sweden, 1997), the UCAM Murcia giant, the best player statistically today in the Endesa League, pauses in the middle of the interview with EL MUNDO, takes a breath and begins a story that he never told. It was 2004 and the whole family’s plan was to go on vacation to Thailand, to the place and the same hotel that was going to be destroyed by the tsunami and where so many people died. Then my grandmother announced to us that she had breast cancer. Luckily and unfortunately, we couldn’t go. Probably, if my grandmother hadn’t had cancer, we would all have died.

A twist of fate that is now remembered as a vital notch by a guy who, suddenly, has seen his sports career burst onto the front page. How, from secondary school at Joventut, he has become an absolute protagonist at UCAM Murcia, where he averages 22.5 rating credits, the first on a list in which he is followed Chima Moneke, Andrs Feliz and Edy Tavares. From the hand of Site Alonso and far from the shadow of Ante Tomicboth teacher and stopper of his virtues, Birgander scores more than ever (14.9) and rebounds like the best in the history of the competition (9.8), to the surprise even of himself, confidence through the roof and the agenda full of interview requests for an embarrassing boy, who enjoys his 10-month-old baby with his girlfriend from Granollers and who, if it weren’t for the baskets, would have loved to be a streamer, such is his passion for the Play Station .

This unusual explosion is completed by Simon in the renewed UCAM, the revelation team both in ACB (fourth, today they face Valencia) and in the Champions League, which he arrived this summer. What is it due to? The key, first, is that all the players, both those who have come and those who are here, are very good people. That helps in the locker room, on the court. When you have a good relationship with your colleagues it is easier, you want to go the extra mile to help. If you don’t like your partner, this extra does not appear. I also think that the signings we have brought in fit the style that Sito wants to play.

That childhood episode marked Simon, the son of a Swedish basketball player who, however, played and trained soccer until one summer he grew 15 centimeters at a time and it was no longer so easy to control the ball. His grandmother overcame that paradoxical cancer that saved his family, but not the next one, three years later. And that led to a rapprochement with another of the pillars of his life, his grandfather, the sailor. Lennard, which he boasts about in his WhatsApp photo. He moved close to home, on the way to my school, and when I finished I went with him, we had snacks, he helped me with my math homework, and we watched golf games, which he loved. We had a great connection and that’s why it’s so important to me. When he played in Clavijo he came to Logroo, when he was 80 years old. He died four years ago. That’s why I wear the 35 on my shirt, the center explains that initiatory experience in the backwater (for him), Logroo, where he arrived at the age of 17 to play in EBA and was amazed by the Spanish dinner hours. In Sweden you have breakfast, you eat at 12 and dinner at five or six. Here they had dinner at 10 or 11 and I was no longer hungry, at this time I was half in bed. But now I love everything about Spain, the climate, the atmosphere, the people…, says this Murcian from Sweden who is not the only one: he shares a staff like Ludde Hakanson and young Wilhelm Falk.

Serious knee injury

La Penya noticed that giant who soon stood out in LEB Oro with the Clavijo and took him over, although shortly thereafter a nightmare for Birgander would occur in Badalona: after injuring his knee he spent 352 days without playing basketball. He was super hard, he came back and had to stop. Nobody knew what the problem was. The worst thing was mentally, he thought he was never going to play basketball again. In the end I said, we’ll try this last thing and if it doesn’t work, I’ll call my mother and see if she can find me a job in Helsinborg. I had depression. My girl and my family helped me a lot to get out of this bad time in my life, details the Swede, who took time to feel himself, fighting against being overweight and lack of rhythm.

This summer Simon decided to escape his comfort zone and accepted Murcia’s proposal. Tomic has taught me a lot and thanks to him I am better. He is one of the best pvots in European history. Every day training against him helped me. But for me it was important to leave his shadow. It was difficult to be important on the team with him in front of you. No matter what he did or how he did it, Ante Tomic was always on top, confesses Birgander, from whom Sito Alonso soon asked for much more. The key is the change of role. Now my job is more important, I am more of a protagonist on the court, I have more balls. At La Penya my job was to defend, to play for the team. Here in Murcia it’s like the team needs me more. And the other key is confidence, he says, without hiding the fear of responsibility that he had in the first days: People thought that I would not be able to do things that I am doing right now.

Suddenly Birgander, an English Arsenal fan, is a candidate for the MVP and UCAM a contender for the Cup and the playoffs. What else? Uh… Difficult. Follow the same path as this season, individually and collectively. And play a European with Sweden.

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