Philippines’ basketball officials express regret over brawl

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In this photo, Gilas Pilipinas head coach Vincent "Chot" Reyes is seen being interviewed by the media. (Philstar/Denison Dalupang)

MANILA — Philippines’ basketball and government officials on Tuesday expressed regret over a massive mid-game brawl that led to the ejection of nine Filipino and four Australian players during a World Cup 2019 Asian qualifier.

The International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the game’s world governing body, opened disciplinary proceedings after the game descended into chaos on Monday night. Penalties and fines would be announced in the coming days, FIBA said on Twitter.

Australia led 79-48 with four minutes left in the third quarter when Philippines guard Roger Pogoy struck Chris Goulding with an elbow. Goulding’s team mate Daniel Kickert retaliated to spark a free-for-all with the crowd getting involved.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said the government did not justify the conduct of the Filipino players in the “regretful incident.”

“It was, of course, the height of being unsportsmanlike,” Roque told a regular news conference. “But at the same time we appreciate that it’s something we have to be sorry about because it should never have had happened.”

Vincent Reyes, head coach of the national basketball team, said: “It’s unfortunate, we did not want that to happen, it’s absolutely unacceptable.”

Event marshalls controlling the players of Gilas Pilipinas during the intense fight with the players of Australia Boomers. (Philstar/Jonathan Asuncion)

Roberto Puno, vice-chairman of the Philippines‘ basketball body, said he was proud of the way the players had “stood their ground.”

“I think we stood our ground and I think I’m proud of the Gilas Pilipinas boys for standing our ground, fighting for the Filipino people,” he said.

Match officials spent over 30 minutes separating the players who had by then punched and kicked each other several times. The game eventually resumed in farcical fashion with Philippines fielding three players against Australia’s five.

“Basketball Australia deeply regrets the incident in tonight’s match between the Boomers and the Philippines. We are extremely disappointed with what happened and our role in it,” Anthony Moore, the chief executive of Basketball Australia, said.

“This is not the spirit in which sport should be played and certainly not in the spirit in which we aim to play basketball. We apologize to our fans and will await the penalties to be handed down.”

The match, in Bulacan, in the Philippines, was called off at the end of the third quarter with Australia leading 89-53, after the hosts were left with only one player due to fouls. — Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, Neil Jerome Morales and Manuel Mogato in Manila; Editing by Alison Williams/Peter Rutherford