Two Mali women’s basketball teammates were filmed throwing punches at each other in wild scenes following their World Cup loss to Serbia in Sydney. The violent 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.
In the video, that has now gone viral, Kourouma is seen throwing a flurry of punches at Dabou, who tries to wrestle her teammate and get her in a headlock, in what appeared to be defensive more than retaliatory. The teammates run in to break the pair apart in front of a shocked Cado.
Watch the video here:
Winless on court, shameless off it?Mali benefited from Nigeria’s withdrawal to compete.
— Oluwashina Okeleji (@oluwashina) September 26, 2022
It is not known yet what caused the scuffle, but star men’s player Mahamadou Kante, who was good enough to enter in the NBA draft, took to Instagram to defend the pair.
‘I see some people who allow themselves to say anything about what happened after the game against Serbia. I just want to say that it is normal that there are misunderstandings in a family because this group for me is a family,’ he wrote on his Instagram story, in French.
Kante then goes on to repeat four times ‘It is a family’. Prominent former women’s player Diana Gandega, who compete for Mali at the 2008 Olympics, also deflected criticism away from the punch-up.
In a series of lengthy posts on her Instagram page, Gandega bizarrely slammed media for reporting on the fight; but not about the plight of the athletes beforehand, who she claims were forced to sleep in airports.
‘We are still waiting for these same media to support our players (Senegalese and Malian for example) who had to sleep on the ground in one airport because of no organisation beforehand,’ Gendega wrote in French on her Instagram.
‘One mistake that has, and will, taint a whole nation (could) even (taint) a whole sporting continent. When this beautiful team fought for the shirt, there was almost nobody (supporting). Now that there is a rift, the whole world relays (the fight footage).
FIBA released a statement confirming they would investigate the brawl. ‘Following the incident, FIBA has opened an investigation. Once the investigation is concluded, FIBA will decide on any applicable disciplinary measures,’ said the statement.