WHAT was supposed to be a friendly between Ginebra San Miguel and the Qatar national team on Tuesday night turned into a near brawl among the players, forcing officials to call off the match.
Qatar’s 6-8 center-forward Muhammad Yousef tagged Barangay Ginebra center Kerby Raymundo with a hard foul as he was going for a layup in the third quarter, earning the ire of the Gin Kings slotman.
Tempers flared soon after, with Raymundo claiming the Qatari big man approached him and said something to him just as he was about to go to the free throw line.
Cooler heads separated the two men as well as players from the opposing camps who by then had started to gather infront of the Ginebra bench, preventing the incident from escalating into a full-blown brawl.
“Delikado na yung ginagawa niya eh. Di ko alam kung anong puwedeng mangyari sa akin sa laro. Kasi nananakit na rin siya,” said Raymundo, who also claimed Yousef had been thrash-talking him the whole game.
Even San Miguel Corp. sports director Noli Eala later admitted in a tweet that the Qatari center merely retaliated after a hard foul in an earlier play by Raymundo.
He said: "Game got a bit physical. Hard foul by Kerby on Qatari center. He retaliated n that's were it got out of hand. No punches but better to stop."
The friendly, held at the Ronac gym in San Juan, was stopped at the 4:47 mark of the third period. Qatar was ahead, 55-52, when officials from both camps decided to call off the match.
Eala, who watched the match from ringside and ordered that it be stopped, also got into an argument with some Qatari officials.
“I was just telling them to stop the game, pero mainit pa rin,” said a fuming Eala. “It was just unfortunate that this thing happened. Basketball is a physical game. It would have been nice to see them play.”
Qatar’s team manager Ahmed Abdul-hadi, meantime, said the Qataris had no intention of hurting the Gin Kings since all they wanted was to prepare for the coming FIBA Asia Cup set in Tokyo, Japan.
“We know that the Filipinos, if they want to win basketball, they’ll try to hit you," Abdul-hadi told Spin.ph.
"We never had any kind of a problem before playing here. We love this country and we love the people. Our coach was just using a lot of our players to see what we can do to better improve our team as we go to Japan.”