Asia may be the badminton powerhouses but indications are that Europe is doing a better job in developing the game.
Both continents are currently conducting their inter-team championships and just by the mere number of participating teams it looks like the Europeans have a bigger base.
While the coronavirus outbreak has seen a handful of teams unable to participate at the Badminton Asia team championships in Manila, the number of confirmed prior to the withdrawals is still measly compared to the European Team championships.
Without the withdrawal of China and Hong Kong and the Indian women’s team, the Asian tournament would have attracted just 12 teams for the men’s and women’s competitions respectively.
Compare this to the number of teams participating in the French city of Lievin – 34 men’s team and 29 women’s team.
While countries like Greenland, Iceland and Estonia, not known for the badminton prowess are taking part in France, Asian countries with better badminton pedigree including Vietnam have chosen to miss the tournament in Manila.
At the last Asian championships two years ago, there were 15 men’s and 13 women’s teams as compared to the European tournament that attracted 29 men’s and 24 women’s teams.
One reason that Europe has been able to attract more countries to their continental championships is because of the ease of travel within Europe. But the stronger reason is that because most of the European countries see the continental championships as an avenue to gain experience.
In contrast the Asian countries look at their continental championships as a lopsided competition and not worth spending the money to attend just to see their teams getting thrashed.
This is not a unique only in badminton. It is the same attitude among Asian countries in other sports as well. This is primarily the reason as to why with the exception of the giants like China and Japan, the majority of Asian countries lag behind the Europeans in most sports.
With a bigger participation at the regional competition, Europe has also reaped the success by having more players from different countries in their ranking order.
The top 100 Asian men’s singles players all come from only 10 countries while the top 100 European men’s singles comes from a much wider grouping of 31 countries. That is triple the number of countries moving up the ranks in Europe.
This is the same trend in all other categories as the Asian list is dominated by players from less than a dozen countries. Players from China, Indonesia, Japan, India, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore dominate the Asian list with a token representation from other nations.
Denmark do have more players in the European ranking lists but it also shows an extensive representation from more countries.
While Denmark have been the standard flagbearer for the Europeans for decades, the current scenarios shows that many of the other countries have closed the gap and have in fact caught up with the Danes.
While the current top ranked women’s singles player from Europe is multiple world champion Carolina Marin of Spain, the top ranked European women’s doubles pair is in fact from Bulgaria. The pair of Gabriela Stoeva-Stefani Stoeva are currently ranked 14th in the world.
Regional competitions are the crown jewel of the continental body’s events calendar. And for now it looks like the Europeans have a better grasp of its importance.
Badminton Asia Confederation (BAC) must step and look at ways to encourage more teams to participate at the championships. One way is to create divisions to separate the better teams from the lower ranked countries.
Finishing first in a second division competition has a better ring to it than finishing last in a one division competition.
NOT A PRETTY PICTURE