BRISBANE, Australia >> Basketball Australia says world governing body FIBA will enter “new territory” when it investigates a bench-clearing brawl during Australia’s World Cup qualifying match against the Philippines Monday.
It would not rule out criminal charges being laid.
Thirteen players, including four Australians, were ejected for their part in the brawl which took place in the third quarter of the match at the Philippine Arena in Ciudad de Victoria. The match was won 79-48 by Australia.
Fighting erupted with four minutes left in the quarter when Australia’s Chris Goulding was knocked to the ground by an opponent, with Goulding’s teammate Daniel Kickert reacting by flooring a Philippines player with an elbow.
Philippines players and officials poured onto the court and a wild melee began. Australia’s Sudan-born NBA star Thon Maker was seen to aim several flying kicks at Philippines players and Goulding was trapped on the floor under a pile of players as punches were thrown and chairs were tossed into the arena by fans.
The Australian players were later helped to leave the arena, board a bus and return to their hotel by representatives of the Australian embassy.
Basketball Australia chief executive Anthony Moore said players were bruised and shaken but not seriously hurt. He said his organization would fully co-operate with any FIBA investigation or tribunal but he would not speculate on what sanctions might be imposed.
“I can’t speculate on what the sanctions will be because we’re actually in new territory in this regard,” Moore said. “We want to work with FIBA on the tribunal and get that outcome and we’ll assess our outcomes from there.
“We have briefed our lawyers on that, as you would expect us to do.”
Moore said Kickert’s retaliation after the foul on Goulding was an “unsavory act.”
“Whilst we accept our responsibility for our role in last night’s incident, what we don’t accept is the action whereby fans and officials actually get involved in the fray,” Moore said. “We find that absolutely unacceptable.”
Moore said players feared for their safety in the “tinderbox” atmosphere inside the stadium.
“You will have seen in the vision our athletes and coaches actually stayed on the court for a considerable amount of time because that was deemed to be the safest place for our players and coaches,” he said. “That’s a fairly compelling set of circumstances; are we actually going to get out of here unscathed?
“Physically our players are fine. They’re bruised and battered… (but) all the players are shaken up and Chris in particular.”
Milwaukee Bucks center Maker has defended his role in the incident, saying in a statement on Twitter that he was attempting to defend his teammates.
“I am deeply disappointed in the actions displayed during yesterday’s game against the Philippines,” Maker said. “Being from a war-torn country, basketball for me has always been a means to bring people together.
“I feel a great responsibility as an NBA player to carry myself in a way that promotes peace and unity.
“My hope is that this experience provides a springboard for discussion regarding the security surrounding these games.”