TAUSUG IN DOHA: Basketball strengthens bonds of OFWs 

DOHA, Qatar (MindaNews / 11 December) — It is not surprising to see basketball courts everywhere in the Philippines, whether in the community or on the school campus because Filipinos love to play basketball. When I arrived in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in 2012, one of the questions that some of my colleagues in the hospital asked me was if I play basketball, because if I do, they would ask me then to join their team to complete the lineup of players. 

Every weekend, my co-workers from different departments would play basketball. Sometimes they would compete with other teams from other hospitals. The good thing is that there are basketball courts inside our hospital premises provided by the company so the staff, especially Filipinos, can conveniently play the game they dearly love. 

The inclination of Filipinos to this sport is not only confined to their community or country. Even if they are outside of their comfort zone as in the case of the OFWs, they would still find a way and time to indulge in the sport close to their hearts. For  as long as there are OFWs in any country, this sport will be very much alive because surely, someone will organize a league for his fellow OFWs. 

The OFWs in KSA do not differ from the OFWs here in Qatar when it comes to this sport because they both love this game. Even though their schedules are very tight, they would find a way to play basketball.  Hence, the Organization of Muslim Mindanao Overseas Workers (OMMOW), one of the groups of Mindanao-based OFWs here in Qatar organized a basketball league dubbed OBL which means “OMMOW Basketball League.”  Most of the players are OFWs from  Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. 

OBL aims not only to preserve the health of its members through this sport but also to strengthen the camaraderie between and amongst its members. This platform is a great opportunity for every player to meet new friends and other “Kababayans” who belong to the same tribe. It is a brotherhood game that focuses on sportsmanship. OBL also provides the players an equal opportunity to learn, excel, improve individual and team players and have fun. 

Hurting other players intentionally during a game is a big no to OBL. 

OMMOW Basketball League

This initiative has also become a way for OFWs to invigorate stressed bodies and minds after working relentlessly every day. In doing so, they would be socially, mentally, physically, and emotionally productive. 

Asbi Jajalis, chair of the OBL, narrated: “In pag basketball sin mga kataymanghuran malugay na, since from the year 1998 pa; amuyan in kiya saksian ku. Bang every Friday bihan, mag pahulas-pahulas na in mga kataymanghuran. Sumagawa’ that time hangkatiyu’ da in players. Sin year 2010, timaud na in mga kataymanghuran players. Daindii na timagna’ in Season 1. Manga 8 teams in mag participate ha game. Mag enjoy in mga players mag game iban uniform nila. Every Friday sadja in game sabab agad katan off duty bang Friday. In maksud sin OBL brotherhood game sadja, exercise mag pahulas-pahulas, magsumadja iban magkila-kilahi daing ha hambuuk pa hambuuk sibu’ da old iban new OFWs.” (The basketball league of our brethren here in Qatar as OFWs started in 1998. That’s what I witnessed. Basketball is a sport to keep our brothers active every Friday. However, there were only a few members or players in those days. In the year 2010, our brothers playing basketball rose. Season One began with eight participating teams. All the players wore their jerseys and they loved the league. As Fridays are the day off for most members, games are played during this day. 

The objectives of OBL are to strengthen the bond of brotherhood between players through basketball, physical exercise, and acquaintance between and amongst senior and junior OFWs in Qatar.)

Thankfully, the Government of Qatar, as always, is supportive especially when it promotes good health and well-being of its citizens and residents. Qatar understands well the benefits of sports to the well-being of not just its citizens but its residents, including the OFWs. Basketball courts are available and can be easily accessed by those who want to play this sport.

Last Friday, December 9, 2022 at 6:30 PM, the OBL held its Season 9 Championship Game at Arab International Academy in Doha, Qatar. The program opened with a solemn recitation of verses from the Noble Qur’an by Omar Asid, an OFW, basketball player from team MIMING and Hafidz al Qur’an. Several OMMOW elders delivered short inspirational messages to the group during the program. Elated families, friends, and fans of OBL players were also present to show their support for their players during the championship game.

The first game was contested between the team Raoof vs Defenders and subsequently, the championship game between the team of Daneen vs Miming. It was such an intense and exciting game to watch. The cheers from the fans to the team they supported were enjoyable.  Finally, the winners were announced: Team Daneen is champion, Team Miming is 1st runner up, Team Raoof is 2nd runner up and Team Defenders is 3rd runner up. 

OBL Season 9 was participated by seven teams – the four winning teams plus Teams Ommow Charity, Qatar Seahorse, and Ems. 

It is so amusing to note that before and after the games, players and other attendees enjoyed the mouth-watering Tausug food and confectioneries such as pastil, junay, sindul, wadjit, iklug, chickenbarbecue, pitis, tabid-tabid, and putli’ mandi, which are available in the courtside.

Team Daneen, Season 9 Champion. Photo courtesy of OMMOW Basketball League Facebook Page.

Aside from OBL, OMMOW has also several other activities, among them tennis through Tausug Tennisters Qatar; cycling through Gagandilan Bikers; Football Club soon; Friday Islamic Classes; Translation of the Friday Sermon (Khutba’) from Arabic language to Tausug; dending Dates to families and loved ones at home months before Ramadhan; Ramadhan Friday Lectures along with Free Iftar (breaking of fast) during the month of Ramadhan; Qadaqa for needy individuals or when there are affected by calamities back home; velebrations on the day of Eid’l Fitr and Eid’l Adha among members and its families in Qatar; Travel to  KSA to perform UMRA (In February 2023, OMMOW is planning to perform UMRA).

Team Miming: OBL Season 9 1st runner up. Photo courtesy of OMMOW Basketball League Facebook Page.

The OBL’s Season 10 will start in the first quarter of 2023.

The biggest thing that people like us who work overseas struggle with every single day is homesickness. Alhamdu Lillāh, OMMOW is a like family and a home for Qatar-based OFWs from Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi because the programs of this group aim to entertain fellow OFWs like us so homesickness won’t engulf us.  (Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Gamson Jr Mawallil Quijano of Sulu is a registered Radiologic Technologist who works in Doha, Qatar).