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Fists, towels and sausages fly in China NT – Araldite/Univille brawl

Any foreigner who has spent a night or two bar hopping in Beijing’s San Li Tun district quickly learns that picking a fight with a Chinese is a great way to find yourself surrounded by a band of his angry country mates in an all-out no-holds barred brawl that will probably leave you either in the hospital or in jail.

Like my man Gabe Muoneke said: Don’t give them a reason.

Brazilian club team, Araldite/Univille, who played the Chinese National Team last night in Henan in the finale of a three game exhibition set, hasn’t been out to Beijing’s bar district, I guess.

The Brazilian club, who was invited to the mainland to play a three game exhibition set against China in Jinan, Henan as the national team prepares to play in the 2010 Asian Games next month in Guangzhou, gave the boys in red and yellow a big slab of beef when a Brazilian big man Shilton set a huge screen on point-guard Zhang Qingpeng at the top of the key on the first play of the game.  With no time to react, Zhang cracked his head smack into the chest of his Shilton and hit the deck hard.  Zhang, after collapsing to one knee a few seconds after trying to play through it, eventually wobbled over the bench where it was determined he had suffered a fairly serious head injury.  He went to the hospital and was diagnosed with a concussion.

Immediately after Zhang went off the floor, Donewald, angry that there was no foul called on the screen, slammed the scorers table, lobbed an f-bomb at the ref and got ejected.  With one of their players lying on the bench concussed, and their coach sent to the locker room, the team had all the reason they needed to retaliate.  Almost a minute later with the score 4-2, Chinese anger boiled over when Zhu Fangyu battled for a rebound under the glass against his opponent.

That’s when the reds got more busy:

When the dust finally settled, Team China marched five guys back onto the court and waited for their Brazilian opposition to return.  Not surprisingly, the club team didn’t come back out of the locker room, and the game was called.

This wasn’t random case of violence, however — almost nothing in China is random.  The fight, though expedited by Zhang’s injury, was two days in the making.  The bad blood between the two teams started on October 10th during the second game.  After winning the first game on October 8th with their best players playing the majority of the game, Donewald opted to test his bench in game two. Resting his starters, the young reserves lost in overtime 99-92 in a very testy and physical match with several hard fouls on both sides.

Zhang led China with 24 points in that game, so when he went down on the very first play of game three, both the coaching staff and the players felt that he had been intentionally targeted.  Donewald said so much after the game:

So it was apparent that the Brazilians were on the mind of the Chinese basketball team well before last night’s game. The hard screen gave them a reason to act on their emotions.

I’ve been in China and played way more than enough basketball against Chinese to know that they get angry very quickly if they think a foreigner has crossed a certain line, whether it’s talking too much, being too physical, or in some cases being too good.  With China coming up in the world, people here are eager to prove themselves as a Chinese against other countries, often by whatever means necessary.  I’m not Michael Jordan by any means, but as a decently skilled 6-4 white guy with enough hops to throw it down on an unsuspecting opponent sometimes, once I step on the court I’m instantly targeted for special treatment by opponents who feel they need to do whatever it takes to stop me, even if it means trying to hurt me.  I have a competitive streak, so when people test me on the court, it’s within my nature to test them back.  On Chinese courts, that has resulted in several minor scuffles and a few near brawls that luckily fizzled when I simply walked away. Like I said, don’t give them a reason.

This particular China team, after watching them in Turkey, is a lot tougher than many of their predecessors.  Donewald has made it a priority to create a fierce mentality amongst his players and forge a group that will always fight for each other, and not just figuratively.  I believe him when he says he doesn’t condone fighting, but when he expressed the need to “protect our players,” which in this case involved throwing down, to him, fighting is acceptable as long as there is a reason.

The screen on Zhang was definitely a cheap shot.  Shilton head-hunted and waited until the last instant to take him out. If the last game was still fresh on everybody’s mind, injuring a key player on the first offensive possession of the game was not smart. Euro screens (yes, I’m aware that Brazil is in South America), which are essentially moving screens that have become legalized, always have the potential for big collisions, I suppose and it’s unclear whether or not Ding Jinhui, who was hedging out, called out the screen.  But, looking at the replay and seeing that the screen was set with intent to knock Zhang on his butt, I can’t help but think it may have been intentional.

Let’s also pass some blame to the refs as well, who allowed the situation to escalate further by failing to take control of the on-court situation.  You have whistles for a reason, fellas.  Use them.  Call the game extremely tight the rest of the way.

But, the biggest Brazilian head scratcher to me was the clapping to the crowd after the first tussle had ended.  Whether it was done out of sincerity or not, it came across as a mocking gesture.  The fact that hardly any of the crowd could be heard clapping or cheering back only further establishes this point.  What did they expecting to happen?  For Team China to come over and shake their hands? Get off the court, get into your locker rooms and leave the premises.  Don’t do anything that could be perceived as disrespectful.

In regards to possible suspensions, don’t expect the Chinese National Basketball Association to hand down any major punishment.  Taking their best players out of the Asian Games would hurt the team’s gold medal chances, and in China, you just don’t mess with gold medals.

Lesson from all this: think twice before beefing with Chinese in their own backyard.  Unless of course, this picture sums up your ideal situation…


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