A motivated United Arab Emirates men’s team is ready to make history when they take on Italy in their opening Group A game of the IWBF Wheelchair Basketball World Championships – Dubai 2022 at the World Trade Centre halls here on Friday.

While it will be the first time the home team will participate in a World Championships, it will be a dream come true for most of the players to play alongside the top teams of the world. As a hosts, these will be also the first time UAE will host a Wheelchair Basketball World Championships becoming the first Arab and West Asian country to do so.

With a new coach on their side, Abbas Aghakoucheki, who has been an important figure in Iran’s success in men’s wheelchair basketball in Asia, the UAE team looked stronger than ever before and is ready for the big challenge.

Aghakoucheki, who has been the head coach of Iran in two Paralympic Games, said the team’s confidence and spirit is building up in the ongoing training session.

“The participation in the recent events in Thailand, Kuwait and training in Turkey was a good preparation for the team. The World Championships are one of the short-term plans for me since I joined them in July 2022. We have also brought in some younger players like 19-year-old Mansour (Mohamed Alnaqbi) to have more speed and enthusiasm in the side.”

The coach also pointed out that the UAE side has many experienced players which will be at their advantage.

UAE are currently placed second among Gulf countries and has a bronze medal at the Bahrain 2022 West Asia Para Games.  At last month’s Arab Championships, UAE finished in fourth place with Egypt taking the first place.

The team were also in a 10-day training in Turkey and have finetuned their skills for the Championships.

Tough Challenge

Experienced Ibrahim Salim Alhammadi admitted that it won’t be an easy challenge, but they will be ready to put up an inspiring show. After a training session at World Trade Centre halls, Alhammadi, said:

“It was a good preparation so far. Our new coach has put in new strategy for our games; how we can improve. The last few weeks, the focus has been on our physical fitness, right planning and building on the teamwork. The team is excited to play their first World Championships. We will try to put up a good show. The focus will be on game by game, and the first step will be to play a good game against Italy.”

Asked about the positives for the side after the new coach has drafted for them, the playmaker for UAE said:

“The team is stronger in many ways. We have more experience. Now, we have many chances and plans in one game; the focus is on everybody not just a few players. Earlier we failed to reach the basket on many occasions, but now we reach near the basket and able to capitalise on our chances.”

The 42-year-old, a trainee at Dubai Club for People of Determination added:

“Australia will be the toughest in our group.”

Meanwhile, another senior player Mohamed AlZarooni said this will a great opportunity for the team to learn and grow playing against the world’s best sides.

“For any player, it’s a dream to represent your country at the highest level. It’s also a high point in your CV to play against the world best players. We are here not just to participate but to make a mark and motivate our youngsters to do well in the sport.”

Big Honour

For Jamal Khalifa Albedwawi:

“It’s a big honour to play at the World Championships.”

“We are focused to do well. It is not just about the result but to make an impression at the highest level and create more awareness. We have practiced well in the last few months. I am sure, this Championship will leave us with new experiences and new visions.”

Under the patronage of Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council and Chairman of the Supreme Committee for the Protection of the Rights of People of Determination, the championships are expected to witness high-octane games with the Paralympic, World and continental champions in the line-up.

More than 300 players representing 28 teams will be in action from June 9 to 20 at the World Trade Centre halls.

Click here to find the full UAE Team Roster

Visit the 2022 IWBF World Championship Website for more information.  Spectator entry is free – Click Here to Register for Free

Text by Priyanka Sharma / Dubai Club for People of Determination.

Credit: Mark Madrid / Dubai Club for People of Determination