BOCAUE, Bulacan – Top officials of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) rued the failure of the referees to control the game between Gilas Pilipinas and Australia, leading to one of the worst brawls in basketball history.
Australia beat Gilas Pilipinas, 89-53, by default after a Daniel Kickert elbow to RR Pogoy's face triggered a full-blown melee that led to nine Gilas and four Aussie players thrown out - and a lot of punches thrown from both sides.
SBP president Al Panlilio called out the three officials - Ahmed Al Bulushi of Oman, Hatim Alharabi of Saudi Arabia, and Paul Skayem of Lebanon - for their inability to control the match.
“My frustrations really is that we have a very weak set of referees. Our crew of referees were not as good. They were not able to manage the game and called the game. You knew it’s going to be physical, and still hindi nila na-control,” said Panlilio.
Panlilio added the referees were well aware the game was bound to be highly emotional after Sunday when Australia removed the advertisement stickers at the floor of the Philippine Arena, angering Filipino organizers.
“Kapag ganun, magkakasamaan talaga ng loob ‘yang mga ‘yan. And we are a hospitable country. In fact, when we host Fiba tournaments, they wanted it in Manila because we take care of them. The mere fact that we reacted meant that we felt we were also disrespected in a way especially what happened last night,” said Panlilio.
SBP vice chairman and former Antipolo Rep. Robbie Puno also shared Panlilio’s sentiments, saying the referees didn’t do a great job officiating the match.
Puno also said there was even an earlier incident that happened between Kickert and Matthew Wright during warm-ups, while Christopher Goulding, Puno claimed, was taunting the Filipino players the whole game.
“Number 12, at the very start of the game, pushed Matthew Wright. Number 4 was taunting every foul shooter that we have. Then the referees simply just didn’t control. I don’t even know who the referees are,” said Puno.
Still, Puno said he was proud with how Gilas Pilipinas stood up against Australia.
“I think there was an attempt to disrespect us and we stood our ground. And I’m proud of the Gilas Pilipinas boys for standing and fighting for the Filipino people. But of course, it’s an unfortunate incident,” said Puno.
Panlilio said: “Very unfortunate, of course. But it showed that this team fought. Our team fought. The game was expected to be physical."
“The mere fact that we reacted meant that I think we felt disrespected in a way especially what happened last night when they were taking off the stickers. Although the president of Australian basketball did apologize personally, I feel personally that it was arrogant and a lack of decency. It happened already. It might have been a spark, but we knew it’s going to be physical. At the end of the day, the referees didn’t control it,” said Panlilio.