I'll try my best to recall the events that took place in our Dubai stint. It's been more than 3 weeks since we arrived at Dubai so forgive me if i skip out on some details.
For those who do not closely follow the Smart Gilas team, we went to Dubai to participate in the 21st Dubai International Tournament, where the best Middle Eastern professional clubs take part in. The professional teams that joined are comprised mostly of National team players reinforced by 3 imports. However, only 2 imports are allowed to play simultaneously inside the court at a time. Most of the teams had 2 or 3 imports. We had only one import because this import would be the candidate for naturalization in preparation for the Asian Games in November and the FIBA Asia Championships in 2011, where teams are allowed to field in one naturalized player. Sad to say, our lone import Jamal Sampson played not more than 45 minutes COMBINED in all 7 games that we played there, missing 3 games including the 2 most important ones. The reason for this is, according to him, a sore knee.
So after competing in two grueling duels in Qatar, we took a one hour flight across the Persian gulf into Dubai. We had 3 days to prepare before the start of the tournament. Our first exhibition match was against the Pinoy All-stars based in Dubai, composed of ex-PBA and semi-pro players like Jojo Manalo, Don Yabut of FEU, etc. The match was held in the Al-Nasr gym, which was flocked by Filipinos. It was a fun game highlighted by dunks by Japeth Aguilar. Smart Gilas broke the game open in the 4th quarter as the Pinoy All-stars ran out of gas towards the end. Our 2nd exhibition match was against the UAE National team, where we lost (Can't remember the final score) due to, i would say, overconfidence. It was a serious lesson for us! UAE finished 12th place in the FIBA Asia Championships in 2009 in Tianjin while the Philippines finished 8th, out of 16 teams.
Before the tournament started, we are able to squeeze in some time to tour the city which has recently been undergoing an economic crisis. UAE is composed of 7 states, or emirates as they call it, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. The capital and the second largest of the emirates is Abu Dhabi, who also provided a $10 billion bailout for the collapsing Dubai.
Dubai boasts of the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, formerly known as Burj Dubai, which stands at 828m high! Surpassing Taipei 101. There's also the very unique reclaimed land area that is called "The Palms" and they say it can be seen all the way from the moon, like the shape of a palm leaf, of course. It also houses the Jumeirah resorts that built the world's only 7-star hotel, the Burj Al-Arab (The sail-like building with photo above). Room rates start from $2,500 a night, depending on the season and can go up to $30,000 for the suites. Incredible! I'm glad enough to have stepped inside the jaw-dropping, marvelous, magical lobby, thanks to our very gracious and warm family friend, Imelda Kunkler, who took me around the various Jumeriah resorts including the Madinat (resort with its own lake) where we had wonderful Chinese food with her husband Robert despite his extremely busy schedule.
Thank you also to GMA7 for taking us around, especially for allowing us to experience snow in the middle of a desert! Most of the players were able to experience playing with ice/snow for the first time inside the Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates. The entire team had so much fun wearing complete snow gears and enjoying the rides. It was an amazing 3000 sq. meter snow park where one could go skiing, snow boarding, sledding, etc. The temperature was -2 degrees celsius. We couldn't last too long so we proceeded to the largest mall in the world (according to them), the Dubai Mall, which had a spectacular view of the Burj Khalifa.
I want to thank also all the Pinoys we met along the way who made our trip truly memorable! I felt that I was simply traveling in another one of the many Philippine provinces because of the sheer number of Filipinos all over the place, in the hotels, malls, gyms, etc. To all the Pinoys in Dubai, you certainly made us feel at home! Salamat!
Here's another picture of the world's tallest building at night with it's own version of the dancing fountain like that of Bellagio in Las Vegas.
That's it for now. I'm getting too sleepy. I will blog more about the tournament proper when i find the time. In the meantime, feel free to comment :)
Wednesday, February 3, 2010