Few names have been as big in Jordan sport over the last 10 years than basketball star Ayman Idais.
The 37-year-old has been a real giant of the sport in every sense of the word from his huge 6’8” (2.08m) frame to the impact he made as a national team player.
However time catches up with all sportsmen and women with the star announcing his retirement recently. But rather than sit back and reminisce about the great days of yesterday, when Idais won no less than 17 national league titles, he is opening a fresh chapter to give something back to a sport that has given him so much.
“Basketball is in my blood so I couldn’t just walk away from the sport,” said Idais. “I started working on an Academy before my retirement so it would be ready. It now has over 100 juniors with more coming all the time so my ambition is turn it into a club in the future.”
Idais has enjoyed a stunning career. Locally he represented The Orthodox Club, Zain, Al Riyadi and the Applied Science University and also enjoyed time in Egypt and Dubai where he won the UAE title as well as being named Asia’s top defensive player. Big offers came from China, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia which were never taken up.
But his biggest achievements came when Jordan qualified for the World Cup in 2010, an accomplishment that galvanised the nation.
“That was an amazing time for us all,” he said. “To qualify we had to beat Lebanon in the third and fourth place play-off in the Asia Cup in China. We were trailing but somehow won to reach the World Cup. It was magnificent and the highlight of my career. We were a part of history and felt the entire nation was behind us.”
At the World Cup itself, Jordan gave a great account of themselves and almost upset heavyweights Argentina.
Unfortunately Jordan Basketball suffered from a huge World Cup hangover with the game struggling to reach those highs ever since. Senior players, like Idais, have called it a day and internal conflicts have blighted the sport.
“There have been many problems which I hope can be overcome so the sport can return to its glory days,” he said. “We need to pay attention to the next generation of players and secure more private sector finance for the sport to blossom. Once fans see talent coming through again I am sure they will return to watch the games like the old days.”
A single man, he says he “hasn’t found the right girl yet”, Idais loves to eat Mansaf and listens to singers George Wassouf and Kathem Al Saher to relax.
He remembers brothers Murad and Helal Barakat “from the old generation” as his role models growing up but credits former teammates Zaid Abbas and Wesam Al Sous as his inspiration during his playing days. Of course, on a global level Michael Jordan gets his nod. He is a huge fan of the LA Lakers but also says he admires Lebanon’s Al Riyadi.
He believes in the saying ‘do not leave for tomorrow what you can do today’ and recalls the moment he fell in love with the game.
“It was 1992 when I was 14 and my brother took me along to The Orthodox Club to start training after school.
“I was very tall then and picked up the game quickly so it wasn’t long before I was playing professionally,” he said.
Idais acknowledges the “instrumental” role that HRH Prince Feisal Al Hussein has played in developing sport through the Jordan Olympic Committee but also said a special thanks to his late parents who supported him from the first day.
Finally he offered a rallying call to Jordan’s basketball fans.
“This great game needs your support,” he said. “Together we can bring the good times back to basketball so Jordan can shine on the Arab, Continental and World level once again.”