Doha, Qatar: Students from Qatar Foundation’s community basketball programmes have competed in the first junior NBA Europe and Middle East Finals in Abu Dhabi – going up against teams representing England, Lebanon, Spain, Germany, and the UAE.

Two groups of children – 12 boys and 12 girls – were selected to participate in the four-day round-robin tournament, organised by the NBA and Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism, and display their skills against other Under-15 teams.

Salsabeel Amir Abdelmonem Ahmed Hassan Elrefaei, from Egypt, a young female player who travelled to Abu Dhabi, said: “Something I learned from this trip – especially from my coach – is to always be positive on the court, win or lose, and always try to cheer on other players.

“We made friends from across the teams, with people from different countries and cultures – it was really nice to see that sports can bring opposing teams together.

Elrefaei has been part of the QF community basketball programme since last year, and said, “At QF, they’re always trying to improve our skills and abilities, and they make sure the players feel comfortable and have the mindset of improving every day.

“I hope that, in the future, I can play college basketball, and at some point work in the sport full-time. I trust my coach to help me reach this dream and I think this NBA opportunity has helped me get closer to my goals. As my coach says, it’s just the beginning.”

Pedro Albuquerque Monteiro Da Cruz, a young male player from Brazil, also took part in the tournament. “I enjoyed having the opportunity to play against players from all over the world and to compete at a high level,” he said. “I’ve learned that basketball is a very psychological game, and where each member of the team can make a big difference in the final outcome.

“I’ve been part of the team for six months now. It has really impacted the way I play the game and I can see how much I’ve developed on and off the court as a player. I appreciate coach’s support and trust in my game.

“My dream is to become an NBA player and to compete at the highest level. I believe that with dedication and discipline I will be able to fulfill my dream.”

Damilola Mihle Eweje, from South Africa, was named one of the top five best female players of the tournament, saying: “The tournament was a great experience – I was playing with teams in Europe and the Middle East who had something in common with me. And what I enjoyed the most was making friends with people from different countries.

“I joined the QF community basketball programme in 2019, and it’s been a fantastic experience. What I like the most about QF is that the community is very welcoming – the community cares about the growth of its players. In preparation for this tournament, we worked hard as a team, and the training helped us to become closer teammates. We are family.”

Hamad S Al Shaiba, Engagement and Activation Specialist, Qatar Foundation, said: “We are delighted to have participated in the first ever Junior NBA Europe and Middle East Finals in Abu Dhabi.

“At Qatar Foundation, we believe in the power of opportunity, and this tournament was a chance for young people in our community basketball programmes to not only practice the skills that they have worked so hard to progress but also to develop communication, teamwork, and leadership abilities – all while meeting like-minded young people from countries like Spain, Lebanon, and England.

“Young people are the key to our future, and our extracurricular sports programmes are just one example of how we strive to provide initiatives designed to help build an active and engaged community in Qatar.”

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