Tamara and Alberto Abalde

Talent (And Basketball) In The Genes

06/12/2019 · By Mariano Lumbier
Alberto and Tamara Abalde openning
There have always been sagas in elite sport. Tamara and Alberto Abalde prove it right yet again for the greater glory of the Spanish National Basketball Team. © Alba Conesa

To have two members of the same family playing basketball, like Tamara and Alberto Abalde Díaz, is nothing special. Nor is the fact that both made their hobby their job. What makes these two extraordinary is that they both play for the same club, Valencia Basket, and that they are both members of the Spanish national basketball team. 

The story of the two sibs in the world of elite basketball starts with their father, Alberto Abalde Rodríguez, who played professionally for several Galician clubs and has always been in love with the game. “At home we breathed basketball. I suppose it’s in our genes, because first of all, you really have to like this sport, and second, you have to be really good at it,” says Tamara Abalde (Ferrol, 1989), pivot for Valencia Basket since 2018 and winner of the bronze medal at EuroBasket 2009. “When Tamara went professional, I no longer had an excuse,” Alberto Abalde (Ferrol, 1995) adds. “She’s always been a reference to me. I used to go and see her and I’d pay close attention to every step she took, every move she made. I can’t explain how proud I am of her.”

How come you both ended up at Valencia Basket?

Tamara: Alberto was signed three seasons ago, while I was at the start of this one. Professionally, it felt like a great opportunity and their offer was unbeatable. The fact that my brother was already here was another great incentive. We hadn’t been at the same club since I left home, at 18 years old. It doesn’t happen much that two siblings end up playing professionally in the same city and for the same team, but the opportunity rose and we didn’t want to let it pass.
Alberto: We don’t share a flat, as our parents would like. (Laughs) We’ve outgrown that stage, but we see each other a lot and we enjoy spending time together.

What skill your sister has would you like to have yourself?

Alberto: I would like to have her mind, her way of thinking. She’s a very intelligent player, inside and outside the court, and she always chooses her position well. She has an incredible ability to give it her all and to suffer. When we were little and we went running, I used to end up completely out of breath and she could always go further. It’s the same thing with the team.
Tamara: It’s hard to pick just one of my brother’s skills, because Alberto is a very, very talented player and has an incredible physique. I really like his personality on the court –  he’s a born winner, competitive and hardworking. At a very young age he was aware of the steps he needed to take to get to where he is. When he’s set a goal, he doesn’t stop until he’s achieved it. I think that’s a rare quality in players as young as him.

When your profession consists of competing, do you end up having a competitive character?

Tamara: I’m very demanding of myself and I guess that ends up affecting other areas of my life. But among us, as siblings, there’s never been any competition. We’re both very happy and proud of each other’s successes (I might be more proud of him than he is of me, as he’s my little brother).
Alberto: We never fought. I really like to compete, to improve myself and to fight, but there’s a big difference between the game and life outside the court. My thing is to be calm and at peace.

What victories do you feel particularly good about?

Alberto: In my case, it’s the recent 2019 EuroCup – my first important title as a professional and the fourth European title for Valencia Basket. Another one is the junior Euroleague title with Joventut, in London. Although it wasn’t a transcendent victory, for us players it was something unforgettable, and we all became friends for life. And then there is the one with Joventut, before coming to Valencia, when things were very complicated and we had to fight against relegation; I didn’t want to leave a club that I love so much while it was going down. In the end, playing at home against Bilbao in a full stadium, we played a great game and won, saving our spot in the ACB league.
Tamara: For me it would be the first gold medal I won at my first European tournament as a junior, along with several teammates who today are my best friends. Another important victory was the Junior European Championship we played in Tenerife, where we got enormous support from the fans. It was a difficult tourney, but I enjoyed it a lot and in the end we got the gold. And thirdly, even more than any game victory, entering the national selection for the Olympic Games in Beijing. That’s one of the most beautiful memories I have playing basketball: the parade at the opening ceremony, our stay at the Olympic village and playing in the shirt of Spain – unforgettable.

How do you prepare for that, waiting for a list you may or may not be included in?

Alberto: I believe the only way to live from day to day is to not obsess about the future. I think it’s the only formula to succeed in any elite sport.
Tamara: In the end it’s inevitable not to get excited about everything, about your club, the season’s victories, entering the national team... And, of course, you will be disappointed many times, because in the life of any athlete there will always be more defeats than victories. You have to celebrate every little victory and accept that this is a game in which not everything depends on you.

Not a day goes by without some kind of pain in some part of your body

Has the fact of being elite players taken anything away from you?

Alberto: You can miss things like a school trip or summer parties, that kind of thing. Any elite sport is very demanding – you have to live with a lot of pressure and you always have to be in the best possible shape. And that’s very hard. Not a day goes by without some kind of pain in some part of your body. It’s weird when nothing hurts. That said: I wouldn’t change anything. I feel, we feel fortunate, and we’re very grateful.

What do you have in mind for after your professional career?

Tamara: Since I just turned 30, I’m closer to the end than him. (Laughs) Alberto still has a lot of time left. I’ve studied Tourism and have a Master’s degree in Communication and Public Relations. I like marketing a lot, and during the summers, if I have time, I practice in hotels. I’d like to go in that direction. The situation of women in sports is not much like that of men; we don’t get paid enough to live off our savings for the rest of our lives. I’ve always known I needed a plan B.
Alberto: I haven’t even thought about it yet. It’s still a bit far away for me, to be honest. (Laughs) I’m studying Marketing and Communication, although right now I’ve put in on hold for a bit, because I can’t find the time. I can’t really think about the end of my sports career yet. The truth is that I still have no plan B.