For the record, I am Australian. The brawl that occurred a few days ago in a FIBA World Cup qualifier between Australia and Philippines is something that should never happen on any level of sport, let alone an international level. Both teams are responsible for their actions within this incident, and there should be multiple sanctions handed out to both Australian and Philippian players/officials/fans that were involved in the altercation for any other reason than to break it up. This all could have been avoided if proper action had been taken prior to the game when an Australian player was tripped by a Philippines player during the warm ups. It wasn’t, and the video shows you what we got in the end.
Elbows were getting thrown around and before you know it, there was mass pandemonium on and off the court as it seemed like a tidal wave of spot fires turned into something way bigger than it ever needed to get. There is no excusing any actions here, and there are so many points of contention that will be scrutinized by FIBA and the governing bodies; but there are four points in particular that will need very close evaluation when handing out the sanctions to the players and officials involved.
The first point is the retaliation from Daniel Kickert when he elbowed Philippines guard Roger Pogoy in the face. Whilst it was a very poor play from Pogoy, the referees had spotted the foul and called the technical. Kickert did not need to come barging in and throwing his elbow around, setting off the incident in the first place. Kickert deserves at least 6 games for that.
The second point is the flying kicks from Thon Maker towards multiple players from the Philippines. While it is understandable that Maker was trying to protect his teammates, that will not be looked at lightly from FIBA and from NBA teams back in the US. Maker came out with an apology yesterday, however that will do very little when it comes to being handed a suspension.
The third point is what can only be described as a gang-bashing from the Philippines players, officials and fans against Chris Goulding while he was down on the floor behind the backboard. In any other setting or environment, that is assault and a cowardly act against anyone, no matter where you come from or what rules you abide by. The fact that officials and fans were able to get in on that and continually assault Goulding is absolutely ridiculous, and a point that will be covered later.
The fourth and final point is that officials were throwing coward punches and chairs at Australian players, instead of trying to break up the fight. This is the issue that not only FIBA will take a serious look at, but other countries around the world that are playing against or were looking to play in the Philippines.
How is it that officials and fans are able to charge the court and attack opposing players? The safety of the players, the officials and the fans should be the number one priority of everyone involved in every sporting event around the world. Officials should not be engaging in physical altercations and attacking opposing players, nor should they be encouraging their own players to “put somebody on their arse”.
When the coach of a national team is encouraging his players to essentially attack their opponents, as well as officials of that team attacking opponents, it makes for a bad reputation within the sporting world. Countries will not want to go to the Philippines and play basketball because they will not be able to be guaranteed that the same thing won’t happen to their own players.
The game ended up being a forfeit as the Philippines would have just three players remaining on the field, and two of those players would foul out before the end of the third quarter. The future of Australian basketball may just end up being scarred in the short term, partly in thanks to the fact that it was not the full strength squad that played in that game. The Philippines have a lot of thinking to do before they can even try to move forward in the future.
Basketball in the Philippines was just starting to grow. The crowd had turned up en masse to watch this game, it was a full house. The standard of play within the domestic league was starting to get better. A couple of household names were just starting to filter in to the game in the Philippines. That now goes back years because of the events that transpired on Tuesday.
It is not just a one page story, as the Australian players instigated the brawl to start with. If things were dealt with and rational thinking occurred on the court, this may not have happened. Neither happened, and now we have the worst brawl on the international level for quite some time. Australian basketball will suffer based on the actions of their players, however the game of basketball in the Philippines will suffer for years to come as a result of the actions that were taken by players, officials and fans throughout.
Main image – National Post