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    Air21 Express set to thrill Dubai-based OFWS in international tournament

    Apr 25, 2014
    Barako Bull took part in the Al-Shabab Invitationals in Dubai last May. 

    OVERSEAS Filipino workers in Dubai are in for an another basketball treat from PBA teams this coming August.

    Organized by Emeratis, the same group that organized the successful Al-Shabab Invitationals, the eight-team tournament will be participated in by atleast two ballclubs from Asia’s first play-for-pay league.

    Air21 coach Franz Pumaren has already confirmed the Express' participation in the event that will also feature topnotch club teams from Malaysia, China, South Korea, Japan, Lebanon and India.

    “Yes, we’re going there,” said the former PBA star guard of the tournament tentatively set on August 20-27.

    “This will be an integral part of our preparation (for next season). We know the caliber of teams from Asia, so it will be a good test for us as we can look forward to better campaign in PBA’s 40th season,” added Pumaren.

    Dubai-based organizer Edwin Deang told Spin.ph they are currently negotiating with other teams in the PBA and one of them is incoming expansion squad Blackwater Sports.

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    “It’s already finalized (the tournament). We’re just waiting for confirmation from our other invitees. Air21 has already sent us its confirmation letter kaya sila pa lang na-a-announce ko,” said Deang, a consultant to Abdullah Murad, CEO of the Blue & Black sports event company.

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    Deang bared how organizers have already seen the value of Filipino fans in the Middle East.

    “Lagi kasing sold-out ang venue ng basketball games kapag may mga Pinoy na lalaro,” he said while asserting the strong drawing power of teams from the Philippines among the nearly 500,000 Filipino expatriates in Dubai alone.

    Even Barako Bull team manager Raffy Casyao is impressed with the passion for basketball of Pinoy cage fans in Dubai, having seen it first-hand last May when the Energy played in the Al-Shabab Invitationals where they finished in the top four.

    “Naalala ko noon kahit battle for third lang kami, ginawang second game ang laban namin. Parang curtain-raiser yung finals mismo kasi nga gusto nila puno yung venue dahil sa mga Pinoy,” recalled Casyao.

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    “Very overwhelming talaga yung suporta ng mga Filipino fans sa basketball dun, and I think it’s bound to change the landscape of sports in the Middle East, kasi football talaga ang laro dun eh,” added Casyao.

    Meanwhile, Blackwater Sports team owner Dioceldo Sy told Spin.ph he has already tasked his incoming team governor and brother Silliman to prioritize their participation in the Dubai tournament.

    “Syempre two important reasons, proper training for our players, as you all know, papasok na kami sa PBA. And number two which is most important: that is to give back to our kababayans there,” Sy said.

    “We should find ways rin to make our ‘bagong bayani’ happy kasi alam natin ang contributions nila sa ating economy. Malaking bagay rin siyempre na mabigyan natin sila ng kasiyahan at excitement,” said the Ever Bilena Cosmetics chief executive.

    The Dubai international tournament will will be played during the PBA offseason and it set a few days before Gilas' campaign in the Fiba World Cup kicking off on August 30.

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    Barako Bull took part in the Al-Shabab Invitationals in Dubai last May. 
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