JEDDAH, 14 July — Basketball is a contact sport and as Filipino basketball great and now Sen. Robert Jaworski had said, those who cannot take the blows should consider playing chess.
Not a few players and spectators in Jeddah, however, are overdoing it, turning the game into “basketbrawl.”
“It’s getting worse. Not only do we have unsportsmanlike players but also bad spectators who are painting an ugly image of the Filipino sports community in Jeddah,” one organizer told Arab News.
The most recent case of “basketbrawl” happened three Fridays ago in a game between the Kodak and Saudi Oger teams at a tournament organized by the Filipino Basketball Association (FBA) at the Sheraton Villa court.
Arab News learned that a player named Rey Buhat of the Kodak team and Alvin Serrano of Saudi Oger were pushing and shoving each other during the game. Tempers went unchecked, so instead of going after the ball, these players went for each other’s throat. What ensued was a bench-clearing brawl.
Witnesses said Kapampangan spectators who were cheering for the Saudi Oger team joined the fray, chasing and beating Buhat until he was rescued by his Maranao friends.
“These spectators should not have interfered. They should have let the officials pacify the fighting players,” said an angry Gil Manese, chairman of the FBA.
He said community leaders are now trying to patch things up because Serrano’s fans reportedly became nasty and Buhat’s protectors felt insulted and want to get even.
Some witnesses said tournament officials were equally to blame for failing to maintain discipline.
But a number of sports afficionados say Buhat should be banned from participating in any tournaments.
“This is not the first time Buhat has been involved in a free-for-all,” said one witness. “He is a real troublemaker.”
As gathered by Arab News, Rey Buhat and his brother Zaldy also reportedly starred in an ugly brawl not so long ago at the old Lockheed accommodation inside Rezayat Compound.
A sports organizer recounted that Zaldy Buhat, playing for Seven-Up, was fouled and he retaliated by punching the jaw of one Sabado of the Red Sea Housing team.
“A melee ensued, with a horde of Red Sea workers joining. In the end, the Buhat brothers, who are known survivors, escaped with little harm but most of their teammates were beaten black and blue,” the source said.
The biggest loser, however, was the Filipino community as a whole because the Lockheed management banned them from using the Rezayat basketball court.
One of the problems of the community is the lack of an umbrella organization to govern basketball leagues. Tournament organizers, after a lengthy meeting, banned the Buhat brothers from playing in future events but other organizers, desperate for good players, did not honor the ban.
“Rogue players survive because there are rogue organizers,” one source said.
It was not only in the Lockheed court where some Pinoy leagues are locked out. Filipinos used to watch basketball at the KAIA, IKEA and Savola until senseless fighting among hot-headed players and spectators forced the management of the gyms to put an end to the good days.
Internal disputes among organizers have also divided the group that organized the tournament at the KAIA.
Three organizations emerged out of the breakup. Gabby Alvarez formed the Philippine Expatriates Basketball Association (later group expelled Alvarez from its ranks, which is now headed by Felix Jordan), Nestor Mariano (who has left Jeddah already) formed his own group and used IKEA as his playing venue, and Gil Manese organized the FBA and the joke is that he has declared himself to be “president for life!”
These three organizations agreed in principle that they will hold tournaments one after the other so that there will be no overlapping on the schedule, Arab News learned. It worked for sometime, until some enterprising persons, seeing the potential market, formed their own groups.
There were moments when two basketball organizations got together for a noble cause. Both PEBA and FBA organized a regional tournament featuring teams from Riyadh, Alkhobar and Jeddah. “Everything went well until news spread that one of the organizers pocketed some SR5,000 from sponsors,” said another afficionado.
Rico Suyat was disillusioned after serving as finance director of FBA that he formed the Industrial City Sports Council (ISCS) with his kumpare Benjie Rogel.
“Nautakan ako. Mautak na ako, pero nautakan pa ako nila!” Suyat was quoted as saying, referring to the FBA. The tandem of Suyat and Rogel lasted only one tournament, though.
In the second tournament, Rogel and his group accused Suyat of getting greedy and gobbling up money, goods (from unsuspecting sponsors) and other things, including airline tickets intended as prizes for outstanding players. The fiasco reached hysterical proportions when Rogel reported the matter to the Philippine Consulate.
“It’s a matter of principle,” Rogel told the consulate as well as Arab News in his complaint.
Confronted by Arab News with Rogel’s complaint, Suyat said: “Aaminin ko na na pera ang pinag-awayan namin diyan pero, hindi prinsipyo (It’s all about money, not principle.)”
After they split, Rogel ventured in volleyball tournaments and himself got accused of what he had claimed Suyat had done. One of his partners, a lady said to be as sharp as a Batangas blade, went to the consulate and lodged a complaint.
Tasked to keeping a basketball game flowing are the referees. Like basketball organizations in Jeddah, referee organizations have mushroomed in the past few years. Like these organizers, referees couldn’t agree among themselves so they split and put up their own.
Given his list of credentials, a referee is only as good as his last game. It is when a referee misses a call (intentionally or not) that games go out of hand. Stories are told of Levy Valenzuela. According to old-timers, he was one of the best Filipino referees to officiate a game. But he nearly lost his life when he was attacked by angry mobsters who lost their bets in a game and blamed Levy for favoring one team. Valenzuela left Jeddah shortly after the incident, and later became a FIBA international referee. He is still active and officiates in international events sanctioned by FIBA.
Referees must be neutral in calling a game. In the recent exhibition game between the Riyadh Archers and the Jeddah Selection, the Archers, in the guise of missing their flight forfeited the second game with still 1:43 minutes to go in the fourth quarter because they felt the referees are robbing them of the game. It is common to hear stories that referees fixed a game or two because they put their bets on another team.
With an audience so knowledgeable of basketball rules like the Filipinos, non-calls or miscalls by the referees are considered a mortal sin. A referee is heckled if he misses a call. You can just imagine a crowd calling referees names during a game.
Some referees, when they miss a call, will make “bawi” to patch up for their mistake. This mentality is detrimental to the game because instead of correcting a mistake, the referee agravates it.
Wild spectators themselves are often the cause of scuffles on court. When the Riyadh Archers conceded the second game of their exhibition series with Jeddah with still 1:43 minutes left in the game clock (for some reasons the electronic clock stopped), spectators who made bets before the game, outside of the venue demanded refund for the money they paid for entrance. They contended that the game was not officially finished.
Some says it’s about time the community end the commercialization of the game and instead organize “friendship games” similar to that being held by the Jeddah Ranao Basketball Club at the International Philippine School in Jeddah (IPSJ). “It’s the commercialization of the game that is the root of these basketbrawls,” one spectator said. “When organizers turn tournaments into business, when professional players shortchange their teams by playing for various teams at the same time, and when bettors try to influence the result of the game, you end up with chaos.”