MANILA • The Philippines has withdrawn from the Asian Games basketball tournament, with its governing body saying yesterday it needed to focus on its appeal against punishment levied on it for the on-court brawl during a World Cup qualifier earlier this month.
Thirteen players from the Australian and Philippine teams, as well as two Filipino coaches, were suspended for their role in the melee, which saw players and fans exchanging wild punches and flying kicks at the July 2 game in Manila. The game was abandoned when the host had only one player left on court, while the Australian team said they feared for their safety and sought their embassy's help to fast-track their departure from the Philippines.
The Switzerland-based International Basketball Federation (Fiba) had fined the Philippine basketball federation (SBP) 250,000 Swiss francs (S$342,000) and imposed another fine of 10,000 francs on head coach Vincent Reyes, who was accused of urging his players to fight.
The SBP said in a statement that the national team and governing body needed time to "regroup" and prepare for the process of appealing against the Fiba decision.
"We have reached the conclusion that... the time and chance to participate in the 2018 Asian Games would not be optimal," the statement continued. "We apologise to the Asian Games organisers, to the fans of the Philippine team, and to the Asian basketball community for this withdrawal."
The SBP's decision to miss the Aug 18 to Sept 2 Asiad, the world's biggest multi-sport event after the Olympics, is a shocking one in a country where basketball is the most popular sport.
The Philippines, Asian Games bronze medallists in 1998, had been seeded seventh for the 15-team tournament and were drawn in Group B along with Iran, Syria and the United Arab Emirates.
The basketball competition starts on Aug 19 in Jakarta.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian sports ministry has pledged to provide a huge bonus to the country's athletes competing at the quadrennial Asiad.
The Indonesia Youth and Sport Ministry's Imam Nahrawi promised to give 1.5 billion rupiah (S$142,000) to those who win a gold medal and reiterated that the country's goal is to finish among the top 10 in the medal standings.
It won four gold, five silver and 11 bronze medals at the 2014 edition in Incheon and ended 17th overall. The last time Indonesia hosted the Games was in 1962 when it finished runner-up to Japan.
Indonesia will field about 1,500 athletes and officials this year and will participate in all 40 sports.
There are a total of 11,300 athletes from 45 National Olympic Committees competing, according to the latest data provided by the Olympic Council of Asia.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA