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Anna Cruz has had a very successful career in the world of basketball, a sport she has loved and been passionate about since being a little girl. With the number 15 on her back she is back at FC Barcelona after having hit the heights in the women's game. She is part of an exclusive club of Spanish basketball players to having league title winner's ring from the WNBA.
What does it mean to player for the Barça badge in a women's team?
In both the men's and women's team, it is a privilege and a responsibility. I started at Barça when I was young and here I am finishing my professional career here. I feel at home.
In fact, it's 20 years since you were last here. Has women's basketball at Barça changed much in that time?
Basketball in general has changed. Now it is more physical; also the infrastructure has changed, the way we are dealt with...Steps forward are being taken but there is still a long way to go.
Do you think that women's basketball at Barça can continue to grow? Where is the limit?
We have just started the first professional league. This is a good season, that can be the start of of a long term project if it is looked after.
Who was your role model when you started to play basketball?
I watched Laia Palau a lot when I was younger and she was in the Barça women's first team. Furthermore, life has brought us together in various teams. First she was a role model and now she is a friend.
Do you think that girls starting to play basketball have more role models to look up to than before?
Yes. We have more visibility and it's easier to have female role models. Before, if you didn't play at the club itself , it was difficult to see a women's game on the TV. Now, we have much more media coverage and therefore the young girls can see us and use us as role models.
What does Anna Cruz feel about being a role model for these girls?
I have never tried to be a role model. However, it is exciting, just as it was when I was young and I watched Laia Palau. Now it's funny to be the person who can inspire youngsters.
Do sportswomen like Anna Cruz, with a successful career behind them, motivate young girls to get involved in basketball?
It makes a dream for them come closer. Let's hope that all the work we have been doing in recent years, the fact that Barça CBS are now in the first division, that I have been a professional for 20 years and had success with the national side serves as an inspiration for these young girls.
For example, you have won an WNBA winners¡ rings, won three European Championships with the Spanish national side. Do you feel you are on the same level as players like Pau and Marc Gasol who have won NBA titles and trophies with the Spanish national side?
No, because we don't get the same recognition. Spanish players who have won the ring, well, there are three of us: Amaya Valdemoro, Astou Ndour and myself. In the men's game there are also three: the Gasol brothers and Ibaka. However, the recognition they get compared to us it not the same. It is the same in the society in which we live. It is true that we are trying to change things little by little and we are making progress with regards to inequality but I can say that we don't get the same recognition.
What changes need to take place in society to get that recognition?
I think we have to stop comparing women's and men's basketball. They should be two different sports, as there are differences. For example, physical condition. That people understand that we play in a different way because we start at a different place, then we could start to talk about women's basketball in a different way. Women's basketball is also gripping, interesting and a sport worth promoting.
Could we say that women's basketball in the US gets more attention. It is that different to the game in Catalonia and Spain?
I noticed that in the US they look to do things big. There are a lot of differences. In North America it is more acceptable to be a sportsperson. I remember that in Catalonia I had to combine studying with training and playing in the senior and not everybody understood that. In contrast, in the US they make it easier for you; you can do both things at the same time without feeling bad. You can combine them better.
Do you think that women's basketball in Catalonia will be like in the US?
Let's hope so. I am 36 years old and I can still learn a lot every day,. So, if you have an open mind, you can take things from there and make them happen here.
As a player, do you think you have had to do more in basketball than a male player to be recognised?
Basketball was, and still is, my passion, my life. I have never thought about if I have had to go more than the person next to me. In the end when you do something you love and you do it with passion, comparing yourself with others is a mistake.
For just being a girl, when you were younger were there comments that made you have doubts about continuing in basketball?
Yes, I received lots. All kinds of comments When you are on the crest of a wave then all the comments are positive, when they think you are not on top then it is quite the opposite; you are then no use. There are a lot of negative comments. For that reason it is important to use social media constructively because we are public personalities but we also have feelings. It affects us, so these comments should be controlled because at the end of the day we are all people.
What advice would you give to a young girl so that nothing stopped them playing basketball?
That they never lose hope. In the end the life a basketball player is very long, the road is long with ups and downs, but the important thing is to never lose hope and to keep loving basketball.
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