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    PBA sets Dubai return either for Finals game or All-Star showpiece

    Oct 7, 2019

    By Jerome Lagunzad

    DUBAI — Buoyed by the success of PBA’s ‘Back in Dubai’ hoopfest over the weekend, Commissioner Willy Marcial bared there’s a strong possibility the league will be back here either for a finals game or the annual All Star showpiece next year.

    “Seventy percent (that it will push through),” shared Marcial, sounding confident enough after close to 14,000 fans, most of them Filipino expatriates in the United Arab Emirates, watched a pair of thrilling matches featuring San Miguel Beer, NLEX and crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra.

    “Marami ng gustong magpalaro, marami na rin ang lumapit sa akin. Tinatanong na nga nila ako kung kailan ulit puwede pumunta ang PBA dito. Mas tumaas ang interes nila sa liga dahil kitang-kita nila kung gaano natuwa ang mga tao.”

    The twin games held over the weekend should be the PBA's biggest selling point.

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    The Beermen earned the distinction of winning the first-ever official game at the spanking Coca-Cola Arena by defeating the Road Warriors, 98-94, last Friday, before NLEX completed a stirring fightback from 28 points down to stun the Ginebra Gin Kings, 113-111, in overtime the following night.

    Bigger things, however, could be in store for the pro league and its huge fan base here as the Government of Dubai intends to pull out all the stops in the run-up of its Expo 2020 hosting.

    “‘Yung Dubai Sports Council, gusto one championship game or All Star (Game),” said Marcial. “Depende na lang sa usapan kung kailan. Pero kung susuportahan naman ng Dubai Sports Council, wala tayong problema. ‘Yung timing lang ang pag-aaralan natin kung kailan.”

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      Asked what he prefers, Marcial said: “Logistically, mas madaling i-organize ‘yung finals. Pero kailangan mahaba, ‘yung may pahinga dito. ‘Di tulad ng All Star [Game] na pwedeng bukas, maglaro na agad kami.

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      “Kumporme rin sa mga tao kasi ‘yung iba dyan gusto manood ng totoong basketball. Pero ‘pag All-Stars, lahat naman ng mga sikat andyan. Kaya paniguradong dadagsain rin talaga.

      “Lagi naman tayong hindi napapahiya sa mga taga Dubai. Basta maglalaro ang PBA, talagang pinupuntahan nila. May mga galing pang Abu Dhabi, tapos pati na rin sa ibang emirates. Talagang bumabiyahe pa sila para mapanood tayo.”

      Even San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria was humbled by the warm reception from the Filipino community, stressing he will accept “with open arms” if he and the Beermen will be given a chance to play here in the foreseeable future.

      “Parang nasa playoffs na kami dahil du’n sa atmosphere. Makikita mo talaga sa crowd na iba ‘yung class nila. Marunong sila manood ng basketball,” he said.

      NLEX star Kiefer Ravena echoed Austria’s observation.

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      “Ang sarap. The best, the best. Minsan mo lang makalaban ‘yung Ginebra (overseas). Nu’ng kami na ‘yung dehado, sa amin na nagtsi-cheer ‘yung mga Pinoy. Nu’ng medyo dikit na, kahit sino na sila. Kaya nakakatuwa, ang sarap maglaro.”

      That should be convincing enough for the PBA to be a regular fixture here.

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