The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a major blow to national sports, as many competitions, at both the national and international levels, have been put on hold indefinitely. The latest casualty of this prolonged health crisis is the Indonesian badminton team, which has announced its withdrawal from the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup championships set for Oct. 3 to 14 in Denmark, citing safety reasons.
The exit from the tournaments that have in the past catapulted Indonesia to international fame further paints a gloomy picture of the country’s bid to excel in sports. Ironically, only last week, on Sept. 9, the country observed National Sports Day, which, despite being held online, was intended to reinvigorate the ambition to turn Indonesia into a major power in sports.
This year’s National Sports Day theme “Sport Science, Sport Tourism and Sport Industry” envisions a synergy among stakeholders to create an environment where talented sportspeople can develop their potential in order to perform, attract huge crowds to sports venues and eventually earn a decent living from sports.
Badminton players, to a certain extent, have actually fulfilled those expectations. They have boosted Indonesia’s pride through achievements either as teams or individual players. Apart from winning titles in prestigious tournaments like the All-England and gold medals in the Olympic Games, they have lifted the Thomas Cup trophy for a record 13 times and the Uber Cup three times.
Indonesia has not won the Thomas Cup since 2002, but consistently qualified for the finals. In the latest edition of the tournament in 2018 Indonesia finished third, while in the 2016 event it fell at the final hurdle to Denmark.
Indonesia would have appeared in the 2020 Thomas Cup finals in the Danish city of Aarhus as a seeded team and could well have advanced to the semifinals. But the Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) has opted to protect players’ health and safety, which is the right decision at a time when nobody knows when the pandemic will be over.
Any trip to Denmark nowadays would pose problems for Indonesia as the kingdom is among 59 countries worldwide that have shut the door to people traveling from Indonesia, due to our failure to control the virus spread so far.
Aside from Indonesia, badminton powerhouse South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia and Russia have given this year’s Thomas Cup and Uber Cup a miss. With the Sept. 18 deadline approaching, China and Japan have not submitted their respective lists of players.
If more seeded teams refuse to turn up for the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup, there will be no choice but for the Badminton World Federation (BWF) to postpone the tournaments yet again. The championships had been delayed from their original schedule on May 16-24 to Aug. 15-23 and finally to October.
Absence from the world’s badminton team tournaments means Indonesian players will lack the exposure to competition required to stay on top of their game. They will probably be out of competition until the end of the year.
COVID -19 has inflicted on the Indonesian badminton team its biggest defeat ever this year, but hopefully it will come back strongly next year, if only we can beat the pandemic.