As a former professional basketball player, UCFB’s Assistant Events Manager Diana Voynova competed internationally for Bulgaria in EuroBasket Women, one of the grandest stages of the game. Here, she reflects on the pride of representing her country and shares her favourites for this year’s highly anticipated tournament…

Tell us about competing in the EuroBasket Women's tournament and what it was like to represent your country.

Due to an injury, I’ve only played during the qualifying stages but nonetheless there is no better feeling than representing your country. The sense of pride you feel when you put on that jersey cannot be put into words. You just want to do your best and make your country proud.

What were your personal highlights? 

A personal highlight for me was playing against Spain. They are ranked third in the world and have some of the most phenomenal women’s basketball players on their roster. As a competitor, these are the games you dream of, you want to test yourself against the best. Unfortunately, we lost the game but it was a great experience to play against some of the best players in the world.

Who are your favourites for the tournament this year and why?

Although they are missing two key players, you can never count out Spain. They were crowned EuroBasket champions in the previous two tournaments. The team has been together since under-16 level, they know how to play with each other and have great chemistry which can be seen every time they step on court. This year, I am also expecting Belgium to be one of the main contenders. With Emma Meesseman on their roster, who is arguably the best player in Europe and former Women’s National Basketball Association’s WNBA finals most valuable player, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them win it all. Finally, I have to mention France. They are a force in Europe, have an amazing team and the last two editions of the tournament fell one game short of winning it so I expect them to really go for it. With that said, there are so many good teams that I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them lift the trophy.

What do you think needs to be done for women's basketball to grow in the UK?

This is a very good question. Personally, I think for the women’s game to grow in this country there has to be more publicity, more sponsorship and more opportunities, and it has to start with the governing bodies providing more support and guidance to local clubs. I have to admit, women’s basketball in the UK has come a long way in the last five years but there is still so much work to be done.

As a woman in sport, do you think the men's game should be used to promote women's sports or we should focus on viewing it independently?

I think it should be both. Obviously the men’s game is more popular so I think we should use it to promote women’s sport but there should be an emphasis to keep it independent as well. Similar to the National Basketball Association (NBA) and WNBA, NBA players support and promote the WNBA but they are being viewed independently.