FIBA: ‘What-if’ scenarios during the Philippines-Australia brawl

If everything was as simple as pressing the reset button on the gaming console, or recording a new song over a used cassette tape.

Moments like these, however, stay a bit longer in the collective minds of people. In times like these, a time machine may just come in handy.

A lot has been said and published about last Tuesday’s unfortunate scuffle between Gilas Pilipinas and the Australian Boomers during their FIBA World Cup qualifying match. Stories and subplots have become news headlines, with every tidbit of information giving shape to what really transpired during that fateful evening in Bocaue.

Key moments, in one way or the other, contributed to the ill-fated skirmish. Could one of basketball’s wildest brawls in recent years been prevented if at least one or two triggering factors turned out differently?

Just imagine, what if:

1. “Stickergate” never happened — The eve of the Philippines-Australia tiff was marred by the visiting team’s ill-advised decision of removing sponsorship decals on the hardwood floor of the Philippine Arena. Concerned over the safety of their players from a slippery playing surface, Australian team officials took out the floor stickers from major sponsors without permission from Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and the Philippine Arena management. The incident, deemed as an act of disrespect by the Australians to the host nation, gained much mileage a night before the game up until the opening tip. An already fired-up Philippine side took offense over the obvious vandalism done by the Australians.

2. A different referee crew was assigned — Composed of Oman’s Ahmed Al Bulushi, Saudi Arabia’s Hatim Alharbi and Lebanon’s Paul Skayem, the referee crew showed inexperience all throughout the abbreviated game. Non-calls and neglect on rough plays exposed the inability of the referees to control a game of such gravity. Better officiating could have minimized the unnecessary roughness dished out all game long. And when the brawl ensued, videos showed the three officials distancing themselves from the pile-up. Rather than helping to break up the fracas, the three referees fled the scene. Did they do this for their own safety, perhaps? Talk about accountability.

3. Australia toned it down a bit — Reports revealed that the Australians, who were apparently experts in talking smack, still went at it with Gilas Pilipinas despite a huge lead in the third quarter. The Boomers kept on talking trash on the face of their Filipino counterparts in spite of the impending blowout victory. If only the Australians stuck to playing basketball, showed some class and shut their mouths, the provocation could have been lessened. After all, no championships were at stake and both the Philippines and Australia were already qualified to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers which carries on until February 2019. The Boomers could have cruised to their fifth victory of the first round and left the Philippine Arena without causing more trouble.

4. Daniel Kickert held back — Australian center Daniel Kickert already had a run-in with Roger Pogoy even before the elbow shove heard ‘round the archipelago. With 5:14 remaining in the third period, Kickert dropped Pogoy to the floor with a hard screen for his teammate Christopher Goulding. Pogoy retaliated by clipping the taller Australian’s legs to take him down as well. Then at the 4:02 mark, Kickert decked Pogoy with a blow to the neck after an offensive foul on Goulding. From there, all hell broke loose. To say the least, Kickert ignited the bomb that was raring to explode. Had he pacified himself in striking Pogoy, the all-out scrap would have been thwarted. Tensions were high up until that part of the third quarter, and Kickert’s disgusting hit on Pogoy was the detonator.

5. Gilas reserves and other non-members remained in their seats — If Jio Jalalon stayed in his seat and resisted the temptation in punching an Australian player, he could have saved himself from suspension and at the same time earned a roster spot for the continuation of the World Cup qualifiers on September. If Marc Pingris kept his phone inside his pocket, his now-famous “selfie” would have never materialized. And if only Peter Aguilar, Japeth Aguilar’s dad, used the chair for its sole purpose and not as a projectile, the SBP had one less issue to answer to FIBA.

Photo credits: FIBA

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