x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Courting success with inter-school basketball league in Dubai

What started as a circumspect experiment four years back by a college teacher has spawned into a tournament with 800 boys and girls participating.

Dubai College, in the blue with red trim jerseys, fell to host Repton School in their under 15 finals match.
Dubai College, in the blue with red trim jerseys, fell to host Repton School in their under 15 finals match.

Dan Riordan had no idea whether a basketball league for schools would take off when he launched one in Dubai four years ago. With more than 800 boys and girls participating in the league this year, he now knows the answer.

"When I first got here, there was hardly any basketball played at all, and I took it upon myself to expand it," said Riordan, a Dubai College physical education teacher who started the Dubai International Schools Basketball League in 2007.

"It's been brilliant this time and so popular. The enthusiasm and skill shown by everyone involved, from the youngest to oldest, has been superb. I have to thank all the teachers and pupils for making this such a success."

Riordan moved to the UAE from England six years ago and brought his love of the game with him.

"I come from a basketball background, and played a lot and coached teams in my hometown of Manchester," he said. "So, four years ago, I started up this interschool league and it's got bigger and better every year. To have over 800 kids play in all the games was fantastic."

Riordan said almost all of the international schools in Dubai took part.

There were 16 in total and some fielded two teams.

"This is the first time we have had independent referees, from a Philippine basketball background, and that has made a real difference [compared] to when it was the coaches who did that job," Riordan said. "They don't shy away from making decisions."

There were four or five teams in each age group, and the best three from each group - under 19 (seniors), under 15 and under 13 - played off in a round-robin tournament to determine an overall winner. Repton School's under 15 girls retained the trophy they won last year by seeing off Dubai College and Jumeirah College in the final games this week.

"I also play netball but I much prefer basketball," Harriet Geyer, 15, the victorious Repton captain, said. "There are a lot more girls playing now than there were four years ago. I think every school had a girls' team, which shows you how popular it is.

"I was really pleased to win again. We played really well and I believe we deserved it. We're a good side.

"We played against some good teams, so to get to the final was fantastic. The other two sides had good players, but we really played well."

Her teammate, Sharon MacKay, 15, was even more adamant about what game she would rather play.

"I don't like netball. It's boring," she said. "I would much rather play basketball all the time. It's fast and exciting. I have been playing for a few years now and I love it. There are a lot of good girls in Dubai and the standard has got better every year."

So is basketball taking over from netball in the popularity stakes?

"It's only really the Commonwealth countries where netball is a more popular," Riordan said. "Girls are more into basketball just about everywhere else. It is their main indoor sport as a matter of fact.

"It will take a bit more time in the UAE to get more girls playing the game [of basketball]. However, this season the standard has been noticeably better. We want to see even more girls take part in the tournament next term."

The schools that took part were Jumeirah College, Dubai College, Wellington, Gems World Academy (GWA), Repton, Jess Ranches, EIS Meadows, Cambridge, Dubai English Speaking School, EIS Jumeirah, Deira International, Raffles School, Dubai British School, Rakess, Rashid School and Jumeirah English Speaking School.