Al Riyadi Beirut owner Hisham Jaroudi flew for 15 hours all the way from Beirut to watch his team play their first FIBA Asia Champions Cup final. And when they won the title, he wasted no time in announcing a $ 200,000 bonus for the team.
But the 91-82 win would weigh heavier for each of the players more than that bonus.
“Finally!” exclaimed coach Fouad Abouchakra.
“I have it on my CV finally,” the coach added.
“This was one thing the team has waited for way too long. We came in with the determination to win this year. Nothing less than the Championship would have satisfied us,” he said.
“Thank God for this,” said Ismail Ahmad, who returned to Riyadi colors towards the end of the Lebanese season after a two-year break.
“The last time I played here, we lost the game because of me,” Ahmad recalled the defeat Riyadi suffered at the hands of Saba Battery in the semifinals of the 2008 FIBA Asia Champions Cup in Kuwait.
“The only way I could have compensated was by helping the team win the Champions Cup,” said Ahmad, who had the only double double in the final with 11 points and 15 rebounds.
For Fadi El Khatib, like Abouchakra, this title triumph has been overdue.
The talismanic Lebanese superstar was an integral part of Sagesse’s triple triumph in the early part of the millennium, but this one was special.
“When you wait for something for a long time, it’s always sweeter,” El Khatib said.
“I couldn’t event walk properly this morning,” El Khatib talking about the sore back that returns to haunt him regularly.
“But I knew I had to take charge in this game. When I returned from the locker room in the half-time, I knew I will do it. And I did it,” he said.
For Loren Woods, it was the second successive gold, but with a different team.
“Last time it was a different feeling. I had to prove something at this level. But this time around this was the purpose Riyadi signed me for the season,” the American said.
“The only purpose of our participation here was to win the title,” said guard Omar El Turk.
“The whole team was focused on one thing right from the moment we arrived at Manila: To win the title,” Abouchakra.
“We owed it to the team management after all the support for all these years,” Abouchakra said.
“Now I can sleep in peace,” he signed off.
S Mageshwaran / FIBA Asia
Photo: Milad Payami / FIBA Asia