Syrian basketballer yearns to return home

Syrian basketball player Michael Madanly fled his city of Aleppo during the 2012 conflict but now yearns to go back home someday and rebuild his former club, Al-Jalaa.

Syrian basketball player Michael Madanly currently competes in the Dutch Basketball League with Apollo Amsterdam BC.   -  Sudhakara Jain

Syrian basketball player Michael Madanly has great memories of his home and life in Aleppo. But that was before a bloody battle, fought between forces aligned with and against President Bashar al-Assad, destroyed much of the city and the country.

Madanly, like so many of his countrymen, was deeply affected by the conflict. In 2012, his brother was kidnapped by rebel forces. The family paid the ransom, after which he was freed.

“My brother was held hostage for 10 days; we were so frightened. After that incident, my family decided to flee Syria. We left all our possessions behind. Aleppo wasn’t safe at all. Nearly 70 per-cent of the city was controlled by rebels and terrorists. The situation was
only getting worse,” Madanly said.

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A year before his brother was snatched by rebel forces, Madanly moved to China to play in the CBA professional league. After his China stint, Mandanly plied his trade in Philippines. He now competes in the Dutch Basketball League with Apollo Amsterdam BC. The 36-year-old may have travelled the world, but there is no place like home.

“I miss Aleppo deeply. Even if your home is in a bad state, you still miss it. I want to walk in the old neighbourhood which I grew up in. Aleppo is always on my mind. I have wonderful memories of life in Aleppo, especially in basketball. I played for a great club (Al-Jalaa). Our side reached the final of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup twice (2006 and 2007). We won the Syrian national title six times when I was there. One day, I will go back and rebuild my club again,” Madanly said.