CHANGSHA, China – The endgame incident against Kuwait at the end of its first round preliminary campaign on Friday only strengthened the bond among members of Gilas Pilipinas.
Big brother Asi Taulava said the resolve of the players to stick together couldn’t be stronger than now after Ranidel De Ocampo stood up for his teammates against rough-playing Kuwaiti power forward Abdulaziz Alhamidi.
“This is not a team anymore, it’s a family,” said Taulava, who, at 42, is the most senior in the national team. “We stand behind one another, no matter what. We have full trust in each other, we support each other.”
De Ocampo got back at Alhamidi as the game between Gilas and Kuwait was widing down to its final seconds after the Talk ‘N Text veteran had enough of the Kuwaiti’s roughhousing tactics against teammates Terrence Romeo, Dondon Hontiveros, Jason Castro, and Calvin Abueva.
And it’s unfortunate Alhamidi hand chosen the 6-foot-6 de Ocampo to be his final victim for the night.
“I guess he barked up the wrong tree,” a smiling Taulava, who is also de Ocampo's roomate here, said. “We’re like our brother’s keeper. We protect one another and look after one another. And that’s what Del did earlier.”
For hitting Ranidel in the groin, Alhamidi got a busted lower lip in return. The action wasn’t caught by the referees, leaving the Kuwaiti fuming and riling at officials that eventually led to his ejection after incurring two technical fouls.
Taulava said Alhamidi has a long history of dishing out cheap shots during games of the Kuwait national team. And if the Kuwaiti is capable of playing rough, he should also be able to take it.
"It’s all part of the game. If you wanna dish, you should be able to receive. And I guess he wasn’t ready to receive,” Taulava added.