Dubai: Filipino expatriates from across the UAE are in for a real treat as two-time defending champions San Miguel Beermen take on the NLEX Road Warriors in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) season games this weekend.
The locally supported Barangay Ginebra Kings are the third team in the competition being held at the Coca-Cola Arena on Friday and Saturday.
Founded in 1975, the San Miguel Beermen are the most successful franchise in the history of the PBA and the only remaining original franchise in the league.
The Beermen currently lead the league with the most titles at 27, while they target a second Grand Slam (winning three titles in-a-row) to replicate their feat of 1989.
“It’s not going to be easy for us this season. Playing overseas always has its disadvantages, but the good thing is that our players are focused to give off their best and entertain the huge army of supporters that we have in this part of the world,” San Miguel Beermen coach Leo Austria told Gulf News.
“The matches in the PBA are getting tougher with most teams making us the target while trying to stop us from winning. But I think we’ve done well to hold our nerves, and hopefully tomorrow [Friday] will be no different,” he added.
Following early PBA games played in the Philippines, TNT Katropa and NLEX Road Warriors are tied at the top with six points and identical 3-0 win-loss records, while the San Miguel Beermen are close on their heels with two wins out of two. “Ours is a young team and we are here to ensure we play to our potential against the defending champions. This will be our first real test this season and I hope we can do everyone proud,” NLEX Road Warriors’ coach Yeng Guiao, also the coach for the Philippines national squad, admitted.
“It’s always a challenge to play overseas, and we’ve got a few problems on court. Hopefully, we will be able to sort these out,” he added.
Leading the challenge for the Barangay Ginebra Kings is former two-time PSA Professional Cager of the Year (2007 and 2012) and shooting guard, Mark Caguioa who’s making his sixth trip to the UAE. “If we want to be the champions then we’ve got to start beating these big teams on a regular basis,” he admitted.
“And though we’d like to take one game at a time, there are no secrets about our team wanting to win the PBA title this season,” he added.
After joining the PBA in 1979, the fortunes of Barangay Ginebra Kings changed with the arrival of Robert Jaworski and Francis Arnaiz in 1984. Jaworski took over as player-coach while guiding his young side to four PBA titles between 1986 and 1997. After the retirement of Jaworski at the age of 52, Jong Uichico, Siot Tanguingcen and Tim Cone coached the players led by the legendary ‘The Fast and Furious’ MVPs Jayjay Helterbrand and Caguioa to power another six championships between 1999 and 2017.
“We have the best of the best and ticket sales have been brisk,” Abdullah Murad, Manager of organisers B&B Sports Services, said.
“Ultimately, it will be a two-day sporting spectacle for the numerous Filipinos living in the UAE. We want them to come and be part of basketball history,” he added.
San Miguel Beermen v NLEX Road Warriors, 8pm
Barangay Ginebra Kings v NLEX Road Warriors, 6pm