Manny Pacquiao outlines 'ambitious' plans to stage basketball league in UAE

The Filipino boxing legend's Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) plans to feature a team from each emirate

Manny Pacquiao is aiming to bring his Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League to the UAE next year for the inaugural season of its Emirates-based competition.

Entitled the MPBL-UAE, the league will feature a team from each of the seven emirates, with the campaign scheduled to run from February 5-November 28.

Boxing’s only eight-division champion, Pacquiao is an avid basketball fan, and founded the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) in his homeland in 2017.

Last September, he brought an exhibition event to Dubai, where the current WBA (super) welterweight champion took part in two matches. Dubbed "Dubai Invasion 2019", it was the first time the semi-professional league had visited the Middle East.

“Our ambitious plan of staging the MPBL-UAE remains as one of the league’s top priorities next year,” said Pacquiao, a sitting senator in the Philippines.

“Filipino basketball cagers, from ex-professionals, former amateur and varsity players currently based in the UAE, will be given a once-in-a-lifetime chance to rekindle their love for the game of basketball. I hope that all our Kababayans [fellow Filipinos] will continue to give their all-out support to MPBL-UAE.

“These are extraordinary times, but we remain hopeful that we will overcome all the challenges in this pandemic and beyond. We will continue to help the needy and give inspiration and inspiration to our fellow Filipinos.

Established with support from the Dubai Sports Council, matches will be played every weekend, with teams facing off in a double-round elimination. The top four teams then progress to the semi-finals, with the finals a best-of-three series.

David John, managing director of organisers DJMC, said: “It’s going to be a great first season not only for the players, but for all basketball fans across the UAE.

“We can already feel the excitement from the ever-growing basketball community here and we will make sure to bring the best sporting experience through basketball.”

In its third season in the Philippines, the MPBL has grown from 10 teams to 31, although the competition has been postponed because of the pandemic.