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The hoop artistes

The final day of a popular event draws the best out of the children as a lone Indian boy tries to match his Filipino mates

Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes, XPRESS
Little courtiers: Daniel Ruiz, facing left, and Andre Mariano try to block a move, while below, Mariano fends off Ali on way to scoring

Dubai : Fadil Ali was the odd boy out amid a sea of Filipino children on the basketball court.

The seven-year-old-Indian didn't think so himself, however, as he matched them at their own game and raised a few laughs in the process on the concluding day of the Western Union Dubai Basketball Clinic at the Dubai Sports Centre for Special Needs.

About 30 enthusiastic children, including a few over-enthusiastic ones, battled for the coveted MVP (most valuable player) prize a la the NBA and in the end it went to somebody who personally didn't think he stood much of a chance. "I don't think they will give it to me," said eight-year-old Daniel Ruiz when asked if he thought he was in the running for the award. The Grade III student of St Mary's School, Oud Metha was an absolute livewire and it didn't come as a surprise when the organiser Towee Virtucio and coaches Paul Cuesta, Jojo Roque and Jimboy Robillos, all former PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) players, voted him the best.

The youngest of the lot was five-year-old Andre Pascua, whose interest in the sport has virtually left his father Manuel with little sleep. "We stay in Jebel Ali and my son wakes me up every morning to get here. He wasn't so keen at first, but his skills have really developed here and now all he wants is to play basketball," he said.

On demand

The Dubai Basketball Clinic was having its second session this year after requests by parents to have it more frequently. Rene Hinolan, whose two sons Giorgio, 10 and John, 11, were out on court, said: "My sons attend the Sheffield Private School in Al Qusais and the basketball clinic there costs Dh250 for one hour sessions, while here, it's Dh500 for three-hour sessions, which suits us better since my boys get individual attention from the coaches as well."

Ali, meanwhile, was having a ball, leaving everyone in splits while trying to snatch possession from a much bigger opponent, his enthusiasm not going unnoticed by his father Parbesh K. "He likes basketball and thinks he is as good if not better than his Filipino counterparts," he said.

For Virtucio, it was another feather in the cap with Western Union agreeing to provide the kits for this, the second edition of the clinic. "They like what we are doing and though the parents want us to have another clinic early next year, we are planning to have it only in June 2010 since it will be school holidays time," he said.

Plans are also afoot to have tournaments within the clinics and yes, raise money for the typhoon victims back in the Philippines.