Monday, May 17, 2010

Thomas Cup 2010

Lessons from the debacle

The final between China and Indonesia was a fitting climax to the recent Thomas Cup tournament this year. Although China proved it superiority on the court the Indonesians did not let the spectators down as they put up a real fight.

However that could not have been said about our national team in the semifinal match against China. Malaysians were generally disappointed with the performance of their players which led to their loss. It was not so much the loss that Malaysians were disappointed with, but with the lack of fighting spirit even in front of a vociferous and supportive home crowd.

Despite being a world power in badminton for many decades we are still a class lower than China. In fact of late we have lost the stature of a superpower in the sport and seem to be happy playing second fiddle to China and Indonesia. Watching our players it was obvious that they lacked the determination to win that resulted in their poor fighting spirit. We thought victory would come easily on our own ground just with the crowd support.

The Chinese on the other hand, had great determination to win at all costs and they Chinese seem to play better in front of a hostile crowd dominating the courts fully from the start to the finish. They were determined to prove that they were a superpower in the sport and will never settle anything but a win. It was so inspiring to see that they never gave up despite falling several times, only to get up quickly to face the shuttle again within seconds. It was this determination that brought them victory over us.

Despite being a world power in badminton why are we still not at par with China and Indonesia? Something must be seriously wrong with our selection and training of players. The authorities must be serious to analyze objectively the reasons for our failure and take steps to correct them, otherwise we may soon slide further in the international standing particularly with the emergence of new powers in the game. The superb performance by South Korea, Japan, Denmark and even India shows that these nations may soon overtake us in a sport that we once dominated if we do not buck up.

By now not only should be at par with China and Indonesia in the standard of play but we should also be at par in the quality of training. We should be having a large pool of talented younger players and coaches and other officials as well. In fact we should be in a position to export our coaches to other countries which are coming up in the sports. Unfortunately we neither have such a ready pool such players nor coaches of our own despite dominating the sports for decades, well before China came into the scene.

The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) should address some of the pressing problems facing selection and training of our players. Are we selecting the best based on merit to represent the nation? Are we reaching to those all over the country, both in urban and remote areas? Do the youngsters have easy access to badminton courts? Is our training professionally conducted? Do our coaches have a free hand to train and select the players?

We must provide adequate training facilities to every young Malaysian and choose the best among them based purely on merits. We must ensure that those entrusted with selection and training must be given a free hand to do their job professionally without political interference. Unless we can fulfill these conditions there is no way we can rise to the ranks of the other badminton giants or even compete with the newly emerging powers that are determined to rise to the top.

Our politicians should learn an important lesson on racial unity from the young badminton fans who gathered in the stadium that day.We may have lost the Thomas Cup but not the spirit of the young Malaysians from all walks of life who came from all over to cheer their team. They were there, Malaysians of all races, cheering their team, momentarily forgetting their ethnic differences. All that mattered to them was fellow Malaysians were playing for their country and they cheered them at the top of their voices. Their spirit of unity was so heartening and inspiring that we hoped that the game will never come to an end.

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