Two Mali teammates who fought following a loss at the women’s basketball World Cup in Sydney have blamed post-match frustrations for their actions and apologised.
Fiba has opened an investigation after the players were filmed physically fighting one another following their World Cup loss to Serbia in Sydney.
The scuffle between Salimatou Kourouma and Kamite Elisabeth Dabou broke out during a post-match interview with Serbia’s Sasa Cado in the mixed zone and was captured by a Serbian news camera.
Kourouma is contracted with Stade Malien, a professional team based in Mali‘s capital city Bamako, while Dabou plays for Centre Dorinthie Basket.
After the 88-65 loss to Canada (4-1) at the Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre, Kourouma and Dabou fronted the media to express contrition.
“We were frustrated because of the loss so we are here to apologise to the world of basketball, Fiba, the World Cup,” Kourouma said on the pair’s behalf. “We’re here to apologise for the image that was put on social media. It was not our intention.”
As the world governing body deliberates on whether to impose sanctions, Mali coach Joaquin Brizuela Carrion said he did not consider dropping the pair.
“These were two of our key players so even though it was a sad incident, it was more about that they wanted to play basketball,” Brizuela said. “We wanted to play at a higher level, and they did show that today.”
As one of only two sides to have lost all five games in the group stage, Mali did not progress to the quarter-finals so any sanctions will not affect their World Cup campaign.
“FIBA acknowledged today that there was an altercation between Mali players in the mixed zone following the Group B game Serbia-Mali at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup 2022,” FIBA said in a statement.
“Following the incident, FIBA has opened an investigation. Once the investigation is concluded, FIBA will decide on any applicable disciplinary measures.”
Mali qualified for their second World Cup as a late replacement for Nigeria, who pulled out citing administrative difficulties around the sport in their country.
The lowest-ranked side at the tournament at No 37 in the world, Mali have been somewhat competitive in patches but a 118-58 loss to Australia was a low point. They are still to play Group B co-leaders Canada, who were undefeated until Monday night’s thrilling three-point defeat to the Opals.