We felt like rock stars: Dubai-based basketball player
Street Talk: Jun Paule > Age: 47 > Profession: Basketball player > Nationality: Filipino
Filipino expat Jun Paule arrived in Dubai in 1997 to play basketball for Olympic Shipping Company, owned by Greek expat Antonios Antonio. "There were no big shopping malls back then and Filipinos would spend their Fridays with families and friends at basketball gyms cheering for their favourite teams," he says.
Time has slowed down Paule and he's no longer as quick and agile as he was before, but basketball still runs strong in his blood and he's now working for JK Sports Tournament, actively organising basketball leagues for Filipinos across the UAE.
He shares his life experiences in Dubai and intense passion for basketball with Khaleej Times.
"I'm 47 years old, a native of Olongapo City in the Philippines. I arrived in Dubai on February 3, 1997. I was recruited to play competitive basketball for Olympic Shipping Company, owned by Antonio.
I can honestly say that Filipinos brought basketball to the UAE and the basketball scene in Dubai back then was really intense. There was only one organiser, and friends, families and fans would fill the gyms like Al Wasl or Al Ahli to the rafters!
After the games, players would come together in a villa to have a feast of native Filipino food prepared by fans. We felt like rock stars. Most of our games were covered by major UAE newspapers, including Khaleej Times.
My most memorable game was back in 2000 when we were gunning for a grand slam championship. We were trailing by two points and we almost lost the game after my teammate missed his shot. But thankfully I got the rebound and quickly released a jumper from the free throw line at the buzzer. My buzzer-beating shot sent the game into overtime and we eventually won the cup.
Another memorable experience in my sports career was when I snatched the 3-point King crown from Gary Hernandez. I was one of the best outside shooters back then.
I've now retired from playing competitive basketball but I still occasionally play pick-up basketball with players my age. Basketball is my life and I'm now working for JK Sports Tournament, a Filipino-owned sports outfit owned and managed by Rolando Crisostomo. I'm the head of operations and we organise regular tournaments across the UAE. Just last week we were in Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman. We are also planning to organise regional and international games.
On a personal level, I feel blessed to have a loving and supportive wife, Jesusa, and three happy kids - Paul Xian, who just finished Bachelor of Science in Information Technology; Marx Joseph, who finished HR and Tourism in the Philippines; and Elisha Denisse, a grade eight student at The Philippine School Dubai.
Friday is still the busiest day of my week when we hold games from morning to evening. I'm very happy seeing the young crop of basketball players enjoying the game - it builds camaraderie and a strong community."
Interviewed by Angel Tesorero
Street Talk is a weekly column to get a glimpse of people's lives in UAE