THE Philippine Embassy in Qatar has launched its annual Philippine Basketball of Qatar (PIBAQ) Aspirants Cup, featuring 20 basketball teams comprised of Filipinos located in the oil-rich nation, to help battle homesickness and boost morale among Qatar-based overseas Filipino workers.
Among the teams now busy forming their roster for the four-bracket tournament is former PBA D-League side M. Builders owned by youthful construction magnate Paolo Mercado, who has expanded operations in Qatar by getting into construction of restaurants and hotel buildings including the famed Holiday Inn-Doha.
“We supported this program of Ambassador Wilfredo Santos kasi we believe that Filipinos here need some activities to ease them of their boredom, all work no play kasi karamihan sa kanila rito,” said Mercado of the PIBAQ league kicking off on March 25.
“Nakita ko yung plight ng mga OFW’s dito, mostly trabaho, bahay o lodging lang ang routine nila. Tapos internet na yun to communicate with their loved ones and get the updates from sports in the Philippines especially the PBA,” he added.
Mercado bared that he has now tapped the services of his M. Builders engineers who used to play in the NCAA and UAAP like former UE player Gino Arellano, Rico Vianson and Bert Ancheta of Mapua.
“Nagkataon kasi they are part of my company, mga engineers, kaya sakto, we can include them in our lineup,” he said.
“The aim here is not to dominate, but with the presence of these former collegiate players, somehow, maitataas rin natin ang level ng Pinoy leisure basketball dito sa Qatar,” he added.
Aside from the PIBAQ, Mercado shared that he is also forming a commercial team to join in the Qatar Basketball Federation (QBF), a league participated in by some of the biggest companies in the gulf country.
To bolster his roster, Mercado revealed that he will be tapping the services of former PBA best import awardee Jamelle Cornley.
“Jamelle is coming over and I am glad he is free to be part of our team,” he said.
Before the end of the month, Mercado is set to return to Manila and hopefully recruit PBA free agents and collegiate standouts in an effort to beef up his M. Builders team for the QBF, with the goal of providing an entertaining and competitive lineup that Filipinos in Qatar can be proud of.
“The aim here is to uplift the lifestyle of our kababayans dito sa Middle East by giving them sports recreation, kasi nakaka-inip rin talaga rito lalo na pag homesick ka na,” he said.
“Tapos we wanted to show the other expatriates here that Filipinos are good when it comes to playing basketball, we’re not just a country of skilled workers,” added Mercado.