Filipino-Emirati Khalifa Salem in action for Dubai All Stars against PBA Legends during their game on Friday. Image Credit: Dennis B. Mallari/Gulf News

Dubai: Khalifa Salem’s dream of becoming the first Emirati to play in the PBA [Philippines Basketball Association] will become a step closer to reality in December, provided his club agrees to release him to play his collegiate basketball in the Philippines.

Al Ahli point-guard Salem, 21, of Filipino-Emirati parentage, has been accepted to study at either Ateneo or National University in Manila — but the offer will deprive the UAE national team of its finest talent.

Salem held his own — scoring 10 points — against the likes of four-time PBA most valuable player Alvin Patrimonio when playing for Dubai All Stars in a 109-105 defeat to the PBA Legends in an exhibition match at Al Shabab Club on Friday night.

His contribution would have come as no surprise to those who followed his performances for the UAE during last year’s Asian Championships, when the team equalled a decade’s-best tenth-place finish, making that tournament the pinnacle of his seven years in the national team set-up.

With Al Ahli since the age of six, Salem now fancies his chances in the PBA via the collegiate draft, through either the Ateneo Blue Eagles or NU Bulldogs. But that is a dream that may not be shared by all.

“I want to keep my name up and make my family proud,” said Salem, whose mother is from Cabuyao, Laguna, and father is from Dubai.

“To be drafted into the PBA, from college, would be a dream come true. It’s something I’ve dreamt of for a long time and it would make me really happy and proud if I was able to achieve it.

“To play against the PBA legends is one of my dreams but it’s also, hopefully, great experience for what’s to come.”

Edith Alegre, Salem’s mother, who moved to the UAE in 1985, said: “Al Ahli doesn’t want him to go but if he passes his acceleration exam there’s nothing they can do because it’s for his studies, his education.”

“I want to grant him this wish, because it’s his dream to play in the Philippines and, one day, break the PBA. It will only be for two years and he’ll only represent at varsity level, not the Philippines national team.”