MANY years ago, the head of the Philippine organization was interviewed on television about an ongoing sports event. He said the event was meant to show unity and camaraderie among Filipinos in New Zealand. As he was talking, basketball players engaged in a brawl.

Well, the Philippines has finally made news as a basketball-mad country. An explosive basket-brawl erupted in its game against Australia in the FIBA-qualification game held in the Philippine Arena before a crowd of about 22,000 and millions of television viewers.

While it took sometime for the Philippines’ side to make a statement about what had happened, the Australian counterpart immediately issued an apology for the incident that bordered on hooliganism.

Initial reactions from players were unapologetic and amounted to finger-pointing. Spin doctors must have come into the picture lately to save the faces of the players and officials involved and more so the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas that will co-host the 19th tournament of the FIBA Basketball World Cup in 2023.

For a fleeting moment, the basketball brouhaha in the Philippines took a way attention from the most popular sports event in the world, the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

What puzzle non-Filipinos is the obsession of Filipinos in basketball, a tall men’s sport.

True that we were among the first countries in the world to embrace the sport, no thanks to the American occupation. True that we used to dominate the sport in Asia ages ago. True that we had the first professional basketball league in Asia and the second oldest continuously existing in the world after the NBA. But despite all that we are not among the best in the world. We never will be.

We have to realize that we simply can’t beat giants that play in the court. Manny Pacquiao’s Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League is a joke. While its objective to have grassroots participation in basketball may be laudable, it is not meant to produce world-class players. I would have applauded the good senator if he initiated a grassroots’ Sipa League or maybe a national football tournament. These do not require height.

FIBA has yet to investigate the incident. But those involved will forever be remembered for their foolishness that ensures their place in basketball’s Hall of Shame, if ever there is one. Definitely, suspensions will be imposed. Hopefully, the Philippines’ co-hosting the Basketball World Cup will not be jeopardized.

Finally, for the non-players who participated in the fray, the police should look into their criminal liability. They simply cannot get away with crime. Hooligans have no place in basketball or in any other sport.