Riyaan Maherali: My Ismaili Jubilee Games Hero – Adnan Dahlvani of Team USA Blue
BY RIYAAN MAHERALI
Adnan Dahlvani of Team USA with brothers Qayl (left) and Riyaan (right), both wearing the FC Barcelona soccer camp jerseys.
I first met Adnan on my way to the Global Village.* He and his team were walking towards us when I recognized the team USA shirts. I wanted to take a picture with them, and of course my mom told them how patriotic I am about USA. They agreed to take a picture with me. One of them (Adnan) took off his team USA cap and put it on my head for the picture. Right after the picture he told me to keep the cap, but I didn’t think I should because it was part of his uniform, but he insisted. Yay! I told Adnan and his teammates that I would wear it everywhere and that I would be at all their basketball games to cheer them on.
(l to r) Adnan Dahlvani, Qayl Maherali, Rahim Hussain, Riyaan Maherali and Zoheb Rayani.
I really loved being at the Jubilee Games, meeting all the Ismailis from different places in the world, playing soccer at the Barcelona Soccer Camp (FCBEscola) every morning, and most of all being at the basketball games, cheering for Adnan’s team – Team USA Blue. I would get so excited when I would bump into him at different places during the Jubilee Games.
Riyaan (front left) is seen pictured with his older brother Qayl after Team USA Blue players (l to r) Adnan Dahlvani, Zohib Hadi, Naushad Lalani and Irfan Charania autographed his cap.
I went to all of Adnan’s games and before each one, I would quickly sneak up to him and give him hug. After each Team USA Blue game I would take team pictures with them. I was always happy being with them. Adnan and his whole team were very nice to me, they signed my cap and they made me feel like I was part of their team. It was also fun for me to participate in their BATS cheer.
Riyaan celebrating proudly with Team USA Blue team players Azeem Maredia and Rahim Hussain after their semifinal win against Team USA White.
Riyaan with both Team USAs – Blue and White – after their semi finals which the Team USA Blue (BATS) won in a thrilling 35-33 nail biting finish.
I was sad when they lost in the finals against another Team USA (Red). But I was happy in the end that Adnan’s team (Team USA Blue) got the silver medal.
Riyaan was sad at the outcome of the Gold Medal finals game when his favourite team, Team USA Blue, lost against Team USA Red.
Adnan became my hero and I will never forget him for the rest of my life because of the way he treated me and made me feel. And I will keep his autographed cap forever!
Autographs of Team USA Blue players on Riyaan’s cap that was presented to him by his Jubilee Games hero Adnan Dahlvani.
I was with my parents and my older brother Qayl at the games. My brother did a short interview with Adnan and you can watch it at Qayl’s Interview with Adnan. I wanted to get to know Adnan better and this is what my parents found out for me from Adnan:
Question: Tell us, how long have you been playing basketball? How did your team come together for Jubilee Games (JG) and how long did your team practice to prepare for the Games?
Adnan: I have been playing basketball since the 6th grade. I played with teams in New York as I was growing up. I used to live on the East coast in Richmond, Virginia. I then moved to the Southeast (Alabama) roughly 5-6 years ago and have been playing in the Southeast region since then.
I have been playing in the Ismaili games since the age of 16-17. Team USA Blue (the team I was on) was put together approximately two months prior to the JG. They took a few people from several different teams and created an all-star team. We only practiced a total of 3, maybe 4 times. There were two separate weekends in Dallas, organized by the Ismaili Council, in which we participated as a team. This is where we actually found out who our teammates were going to be.
The term BATS was created by our coach. In our team meeting prior to the games, our coach revealed the definition of BATS. Until we reached Dubai, we only knew of the acronym, not the actual meaning – which is Believe. Achieve. Together. (We will) Succeed.
Question: The JG Basketball Team USA was represented by three separate teams, tell us more about the composition of the teams and how they compared with one another?
Adnan: Correct, there were a total of 3 teams from USA.
Team 1 (Team USA Red, Dallas Titans): These guys, you could say, were the number #1 seed Team USA! The players on this team have played ball together for the last 8-10 years and they have continuously won the USA Ismaili National Games year after year.
Team 2 (Team USA Blue, BATS): This was the team I was on. We had 4-5 players who were over 30 years of age, including myself. Going into the tournament, as the teams were made and practices were held, we were considered USA’s “B” team. We have a lot of talent, and veteran leadership. This is what helped us reach as far as we did.
We had a few scrimmage games during our practices. We played the Titans twice. We tied once 64-64 and lost the second one by 25 to 30 points. We played the third USA team (White) twice. We beat them by 20 + points the first time and about 6-8 points the second time.
Team 3 (Team USA White): This team was also made the same way as our team was. They had a lot of young talent with maybe one or two veterans. This team grinds you down, out hustles you, and is always in the game. I think after the first two practices this team realized they were the underdogs. Our semifinal game was against them, in which the game was tied 33-33 with 13 secs left. Fortunately, we had the last possession and Amaan Porbandarwala, our team captain, hit a game winner at the buzzer, just as the clock expired. We advanced to the finals winning by 2 points, 35-33.
Question: What is next for BATS?
Adnan: Next for team BATS?! I’m honestly not sure. I do hope our coach plans to coach again and I’m sure most of the youth will continue to play. We have regional and national tournaments in which everyone plans to participate. This should help everyone be physically and mentally prepared for the Jubilee Games in 2020. As I mentioned earlier, myself and a few others (Neal Merchant, Amaan Porbandarwala, Azeem Maredia, Rahim Hussian) as well as coach Raheel Ismail are all over the age of 32. I think our days of playing basketball are slowly winding down. Maybe we will play regionally. I could also see coaching in the horizons for some of the older players.
Question: During the JG which team impressed you the most?
Adnan: Out of all the teams in the Jubilee Games, Team Tajikistan from Russia impressed me the most. I didn’t get a chance to play against them, but I am confident it would have been one great battle. Honestly, I was impressed by my team and the progress we made in less than 2 months. We competed like champions and brought a silver medal home.
Question: What is your positional play?
Adnan: I usually play as a point guard/shooting guard.
Question: What is the interest level of the game within our Jamat in the USA and are there any prospects of outstanding Ismailis in the NCAA or other leagues?
Answer: Interest level is very high indeed. But I don’t know about any prospects of Ismailis in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or other leagues. At least, I am not aware. On Team USA Red (Dallas Titans), there is a young man named Asad Meghani. He played college ball at Carnegie Melon. He was the Titans’ starting point guard in the Jubilee Games this year. Malik Valliani of Team USA White played for Emory for 1 year, I think. Rahim Hussain who represented BATS, played for either Arizona or UConn for a season some 8-10 years ago.
Question: What is your favorite NBA team and who is your favorite player?
Adnan: New York Knicks, and Kobe Bryant – he was my Michael Jordan!
Question: In conclusion, what is your general impression about the Jubilee Games and what about your future at the Games?
Adnan: The Jubilee Games basketball was the highest of all events I’ve participated in, in terms of weight. For me this event felt like the Olympics. Aside from the sports, the people, the venue, the city, everything was a memorable experience. I am just sad that the Jubilee Games happened at such a later stage of my career, in terms of basketball. I hope to be playing in the Jubilee Games in the future, but will be transitioning to golf, which is my new passion.
Question: Thank you very much for your insights, any parting words?
Adnan: I am truly humbled by the love Riyaan and Qayl have shown with their parent’s support. This passion requires time, patience and energy, and I am learning a lot from you through the little experiences you and I have shared together in the short time we spent together.
I hope you like my report on the Jubilee Games, and how Adnan made it very special for me.
Date posted: Sunday, August 14, 2016.
Riyaan Maherali is eight years old, and dreams of being the President of the United States of America when he grows up. He loves art and playing soccer.
*Global Village was the hub of the 2016 Ismaili Jubilee Games where visitors met one another and experienced the music, art and culture of their Ismaili brothers and sisters from around the world.
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Great job Riyaan. You are an inspiration to all young Ismaili members. Glad you enjoyed the games. I am very proud of you and Qayl.