Court battle

Chinese basketballers beat Brazilian opponents – literally

Court battle

Donewald: aggressive coaching methods may have backfired

It was Brazil’s finance minister who began the talk of war with China in late September. In this case, Guido Mantega was referring to a ‘currency’ war, precipitated by the ‘undervalued’ Chinese yuan. But the politician probably had little idea that an actual battle between the two countries would break out – on a basketball court – less than a fortnight later.

The fight in question occurred last Tuesday in Xuchang, and saw the Chinese national side start a brawl with the Brazilian team. The supposedly friendly match descended into violence shortly after the opening tip-off, reports Reuters. Having pushed over a Brazilian player, Chinese punches flew (as did kicks), with officials struggling to keep the players apart. When the Brazilian team retreated down the tunnel to its dressing room, the Chinese players chased them, unleashing another bout of fisticuffs. Little wonder the Brazilians refused to return to the court, meaning the three-game series ended in a one-all tie.

The incident – which has been getting wide viewership around the world on YouTube – has provoked severe embarrassment in China itself. The series of games was designed as a warm-up ahead of the Asian Games, to be hosted in Guangzhou in November. However, Li Jinsheng, vice-president of the China Basketball Association (CBA) has suspended the players for a month. “The CBA takes full responsibility for this. We have ordered the team to suspend its training and to reflect upon its mistakes deeply. The CBA sincerely apologises to the Brazilian team, all the fans and media.”

The association has also ordered the players to attend lessons on good sportsmanship, and has fined and suspended the coach – who turns out to be American. Bob Donewald Junior took the China job six months ago, having formerly been an NBA assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was also in apologetic mode after the debacle: “The consequences of this event and the incident are severe,” Donewald said. “Not only was it against the spirit of competition, our actions were also not worthy of the adulation of our fans and the well wishes of the entire country.

“We have brought shame and disappointment to this team, to our fans and to this nation. So on behalf of the national team, I offer our sincere apologies to everyone who supports and cares about us.”

Donewald has been punished with suspension and a Rmb50,000 fine. Nor was his own conduct without blemish: even before the fight started he’d been ejected from courtside by officials for angrily protesting against a foul call.

“This incident has exposed the lax administration and educational shortcoming of the CBA,” said Li. Nor is it the first time. In WiC58 we reported on the explosive punch-up in this year’s CBA final between the Xinjiang Snow Leopards and the Guangdong Southern Tigers – which saw American Charles Gaines knock unconscious Guangdong’s Du Feng.

But this is more serious. Bigger picture, China has assiduously been trying to foster good trading relations with Brazil (see last week’s Focus issue). And for many Chinese it also contravenes a basic tenet: the hospitality ethic. A shocked netizen on Tianya’s website commented, for example, on how wrong it was to behave so violently to “a guest from afar”.

Not all the media has vilified the team’s performance. The Qilu Evening News takes solace from the fact that while China’s basketballers were “seriously injured” they also showed “momentum in the fight” and came out victorious.

Indeed, in a fresh dig at the nation’s frequently violent soccer players, the newspaper cheekily adds: “We should also see the positive side. The basketballers physical quality and enterprising spirit are at least stronger than the Chinese football players.”

© ChinTell Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sponsored by HSBC.

The Week in China website and the weekly magazine publications are owned and maintained by ChinTell Limited, Hong Kong. Neither HSBC nor any member of the HSBC group of companies ("HSBC") endorses the contents and/or is involved in selecting, creating or editing the contents of the Week in China website or the Week in China magazine. The views expressed in these publications are solely the views of ChinTell Limited and do not necessarily reflect the views or investment ideas of HSBC. No responsibility will therefore be assumed by HSBC for the contents of these publications or for the errors or omissions therein.