LOCKED down in hot and dry Kuwait for half a year now, Rabeh Al-Hussaini is already missing the PBA.
More so the team which he considers his ‘other family.’
Although no longer with Blackwater, the 31-year-old free agent admitted missing the camaraderie and rapport he developed in his two-year stay with the former expansion franchise owned by Dioceldo Sy.
The 6-foot-7 former UAAP MVP from Ateneo emphatized with his former team, sending a short message to management when Sy found himself in hot water after disclosing publicly his plan to sell the Ever Bilena franchise.
Sy later took back what he said, noting it was a spur of the moment thing after being coming under the threat of a possible sanction from both the PBA Commissioner’s Office and the Games and Amusements Board (GAB) for Blackwater’s return to practice ahead of the scheduled start of team workouts.
“Hope all is well. Heard the news. Missing the Blackwater family. Wishing you all the best,” said Al-Hussaini in a message to Sy.
The president and CEO of Ever Bilena Cosmetics Inc., admitted being touched by the gesture of the player even though he's no longer with the team.
Al-Hussaini’s contract with Blackwater expired last December. While the Elite tendered an offer to him, both parties never got to agree on a new deal as the big man was packaged by the ballclub as part of the revised, three-team trade that had TnT Katropa landing Poy Erram from NLEX.
The 2011 Rookie of the Year ended up joining NLEX, a team he played for in 2017 prior to him going to Blackwater. But the Road Warriors never exercised their rights on Al-Hussaini, leaving him unsigned for the league’s 45th season.
A check by SPIN.ph with NLEX confirmed that Al-Hussaini is now a free agent.
All of these developments took place while Al Hussaini was in Kuwait, his father being a native of the country.
Unfortunately, he found himself stuck in the Middle East country at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m okay. I’m in Kuwait since January,” said the Fil-Kuwaiti and brother to former PBA player Carlo Sharma.
Although affected by the pandemic, too, COVID-19 cases in Kuwait are not as bad as the other countries, including the Philippines.
“Every day there are at least 500-700 cases and recoveries of at least 800 a day,” he said of the situation back there.
As much as he wants to return home, flights out of the country are still limited.
Even more, flights in and out of Manila are again prohibited after the National Capital Region (NCR) reverted to Modified Enhance Community Quarantine (MECQ) due to the continued rise in COVID-19 cases.
“Everything’s starting to open up already. But flights out are still not allowed to citizens,” said Al-Hussaini. “Only expats are allowed to leave the country.”
His extended stay in the Middle East made him miss the Elite even more.
“Sa Blackwater ko lang na-feel ang family,” said Al-Hussaini.
It wouldn’t come as a surprise then, if fans still see Al-Hussaini donning the Blackwater jersey if ever he gets to return in the pro league.