The scuffle between Salimatou Kourouma and Kamite Elisabeth Dabou happened while they were walking through the postgame media area and were caught on film by Serbian media.
“We were frustrated because of the loss so we are here to apologize to the world of basketball, FIBA, the World Cup,” Kourouma said on the pair’s behalf after a loss to Canada on Tuesday. “We’re here to apologize for the image that was put on social media. It was not our intention.”
Kourouma threw a few punches at Dabou before their Mali teammates jumped in to break them apart. The two played in the Canada game and coach Joaquin Brizuela said he didn't consider benching them as punishment.
“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.”
Mali qualified for the World Cup as a late replacement for Nigeria, which had administrative issues. The African country has gone 0-5 in the World Cup, losing by an average of 30 points.
Mali has only won one game in its World Cup history in 2010.