Dubai: The Taaleem Titans — a squad of 23 junior basketball players from two schools — will be out to write their own bit of history as they embark on a sojourn to Europe later this week.
Scheduled to depart for the Czech Republic’s capital Prague on March 25, the three teams that comprise the squad will participate in the Easter Euro Basket (EEB) 2018 tournament to be held from March 27 to April 1. The annual competition is open to girls and boys in 18 various age categories with the Taaleem Titans featuring in three sections.
This is the first time that the UAE is being represented at this event that brings together elite age-group basketball clubs on one platform.
The Taaleem Titans’ squad has been selected from two of the 10 schools run by education provider Taaleem — the Greenfield Community School (GCS), the champions of the DASSA Under-16 Basketball League and Uptown School (UTS). “We are fortunate to have a dedicated and passionate bunch of youngsters who had made it their goal of qualifying to this prestigious tournament,” Matt Christensen, the Athletics Director at GCS told Gulf News.
“Four years back, I challenged this group of youngsters, and today they stand one step away from doing something unique in the history of our school. It has been a great journey so far and I am glad these kids could realise their dream of playing in an international tournament,” he added.
Christensen has been joined by Jacqueline Ronalds, the basketball coach at UTS and one of the nominees for this year’s UAE Teen Sports Award. The three squads of the Taaleem Titans comprise of 23 players representing 19 nationalities from across the world. “The talent of this team lies in their work ethic. They may look like an ordinary group of youngsters, but deep inside they are a bunch of committed players who may one day even turn professional sportsmen,” Christensen said.
Sponsored by Christopher Chatzigeorgiou, the Managing Director of Alumil — a privately owned aluminium extrusion group in South East Europe — the squad will travel to Prague on Sunday. “I have high hopes for all three teams taking part. They have been looking good during practice, but my main aim would be to ensure these youngsters enjoy, be safe and stay convinced that their returns will be directly proportionate to how much they have invested during training,” Christensen said.
Brazilian Philip Silva, an accomplished epee fencer who last week competed at an international fencing competition in Austria, is the first-choice centre on the main team.
“This is going to be such a learning experience for me,” Silva enthused.
“This is going to be unique and I am sure we will all enjoy and cherish this unique blend of a combined team,” he added.
Kamran Mustafayev from Azerbaijan who is the shooting guard and team captain is only too keen to see this group of boys succeed. “I think our passion for basketball stands out through this entire exercise,” he said.
Kyriakos Chatzigeorgiou, who is also a centre, felt that all their hard work over a sustained period of time is bound to show results on their trip. “We ought to be the best we can and I am sure we can do well with the results,” he said.