The controversial goal-tending (non) call…

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[center-hidden]The controversial goal-tending (non) call…
By: Jay P. Mercado


Much has been said about the game last Sunday between the San Mig Coffee Mixers and the Barako Energy Bulls that saw the Mixers eking out a 1-point victory, 92-91. What made the game controversial, though, was the non-call made by the referees on an alleged goal-tending violation made by San Mig’s Rafi Reavis from a Rico Villanueva shot with three seconds left in the game. Villanueva’s shot hit the rim, the ball still moving when Reavis tapped it away and collared the rebound after to end the game.

In the old PBA rules, this would have easily been assessed a goal-tending violation. This rule was applied way back since the start of the PBA season in 1975 as this was applied from the NBA goal-tending rule. As the PBA had a bevy of imports of unlimited height during the first decade, it was prudent for the league to apply the same NBA rule as it favors teams with taller players. And for a vertically-challenged league that saw a 6’5 Abet Guidaben being its tallest local player, then having athletic imports at least 6’8 tall would have exploited the goal-tending rule to the hilt.

But not so the FIBA. This rule has been there since time immemorial. The FIBA understands that when a shot is taken and the ball hits the rim, then it’s open season from thereon. Any player can interfere with the ball, except if they touch the net or the rim to prevent the shot from going in. Players can only tap the ball away from the rim. Hence, even if the shot has a solid shot of going in, so long as the ball is tapped away if the ball hasn’t gone into the net, then no goal-tending violation is committed. Which is not surprising since we see this often in FIBA tournaments like the Olympics or the FIBA World when a tall player (Marc or Pau Gasol of Spain, David Robinson of the US, Arvydas Sabonis of the USSR, Kresimir Cosic of Yugoslavia, etc.) would do the same and not assessed with a violation.

The PBA applied the FIBA rule in 2007. If I recall correctly, this rule was instituted to help the Philippine national team get familiarized and exploit the FIBA rules to its advantage. That time, Chot Reyes was handling the national team that was heading for Tokushima in Japan for the FIBA-Asia qualifying tournament. The rule change was relevant because it can help our tall or high-leaping guys to do the same things that our opponents were doing against us. This rule was retained from thereon.

And while there have been several instances in the recent past (a lot by Reavis himself) when this move was practiced by different players, there was no uproar until last Sunday. For the first time, this rule was put under the klieg lights because it happened in the closing seconds with the game on line. Whether the Barako players were aware of this rule or not is irrelevant – as the alleged violation happened in the last 3 seconds of the game. With the game on the line, it was natural to see an uproar from the Barako group.

Commissioner Chito Salud acted decisively on this matter, appearing on national television in the halftime of the second game that Sunday to clarify the rules. Salud was very authoritative and quick in stating that the call was correct and the Reavis’ interference was legitimate. You can’t find a more decisive Commissioner than that. And you want to see this more often because it gives credence to the Commissioner’s office and the league in general. Just like that, he quickly doused cold water on what could have been a PR disaster especially if Barako decided to pursue its threat of putting the game on protest.

What makes the Commissioner even more credible was his dismissal of Villanueva’s reaction addressed to him after the game. It was clear on national television that the Raging Bull was hurling “sweet nothings” to the Commissioner himself in a fit of rage of having felt cheated. Villanueva immediately apologized to Salud the day after, and Salud, in a magnanimous show of humility, didn’t slap Villanueva with a fine or penalty. Another correct move on Salud’s part since, as he aptly described it, was just part of the “heat of the moment.”

Yeng Guiao and Luigi Trillo have gone on record to say that they prefer the old PBA rule. I agree. It takes away the beauty of the game when you see players interfering with the shot when the ball is on the cylinder. Similarly, I don’t see the logic of calling a goal-tending violation when the ball is on a downward slope after the shot is taken and is swatted away while allowing the ball to be tapped while on the cylinder. However, while the rule isn’t good in terms of entertainment value, it remains an invaluable support to our players for the national team. Until the FIBA itself decides to change this rule, then we might have to live with this rule to get used to what’s happening internationally.

As for the game itself, the referees may have done right in not calling a goal-tending violation but they still made a guffaw by not calling a travelling error on Reavis after rebounding the ball. Had a call been made, Barako would still have at least 0.9 of a second left to try to win it. Not that they had a good chance of scoring with that time left but it does give them a chance. And sometimes, that’s all that matters.


Click here to see all photos of this controversial game.


  • popskypopsky Itatawid, ihahatid kita.. ✭✭✭

    Pero sana magbago na rin ruling ng fiba para maibalik na rin sa PBA yung dating mas magandang rule.
  • I don't like the FIBA-rule in Goaltending pangmatangkad na rule lang yun dehado yung mga team na walang 6'9" and up (national or international competition) at parang nawawalang halaga yung chance to score kaya sana tanggalin na din ng PBA pati na din yung Delay of the game rule when a player of the offense-side taps the ball after a made shot.

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