The Badminton World Federation (BWF) should not devalue their most prestigious tournament in the absence of some of the best badminton players and teams.
The withdrawal of Indonesia and South Korea should be a wake-up call to the BWF to reconsider on their insistence that the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals take place in Aarhus, Denmark early next month.
The withdrawals come in the wake of the number of new cases of Covid-19 in Denmark on the rise for the past ten days. Over the last three days the numbers have been alarmingly higher than Malaysia with 251, 317 and 292 cases.
The Thomas-Uber Cup Finals has been hit by a spate of withdrawals including teams from Australia, Taiwan and Thailand. India will be fielding depleted sides while China has yet to confirm their participation.
Russia had withdrawn their team prior to the draw of the championships.
The Thomas-Uber Cup Finals, winners of which are considered as the official world team champions, deserve better than being allowed to continue without some of the biggest teams.
Indonesia are the most successful team in the Thomas Cup, having won the title a record 13 times. Despite not having taken the Cup since 2002, The Indonesian men with both the top two doubles pairs in their line-up, were the top seeds and strong favourites to regain the coveted Cup.
The Koreans, winners of the Uber Cup in 2010, have been a regular top four finishers in both the Thomas and Uber Cups.
Whether the BWF is going to replace the withdrawn teams with others remain to be seen. Either way it does not augur well for a tournament of this status.
Unlike some other sports, any replacement countries would be way too weak to take on even the weaker of the remaining teams. It would only end up making a mockery of the prominence given to the Thomas-Uber Cups.
Former national player and coach Datuk James Selvaraj said that the withdrawal of the top players and teams has taken away the lustre from the Thomas Cup.
“The glamour of winning the Cup is no longer there. Obviously it also makes it easier for teams including Malaysia to vie for the titles at stake,” said James.
He added that Malaysia should consider seriously on whether they still want to make the trip to Denmark.
“They don’t have to make a hasty decision but if things do not improve before the Finals they must consider withdrawing,” he added.
The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) are still adamant on participating although a couple of players had opted out due to concerns on the ongoing pandemic. While they are not willing to say it out in the open, several other selected players are also quietly concerned about the situation.
These players and their families do not want to voice out their concerns for fear of the players themselves being sidelined from future tournaments.
Yes. Malaysia has not lifted the coveted Thomas Cup since 1992 at the historic Stadium Negara in Kuala Lumpur. But should a depleted field be the motivation to participate in such dire conditions?
It would be interesting to see how many of the BAM council members themselves would be willing to take a trip to Aarhus.
It has been customary for the entire council to be “rewarded” with a trip to the Olympics. Will the same council members agree without a second thought if they are given the opportunity to be at the Finals.
The Malaysian authorities are said to have given approval for the Malaysian teams to travel subject to following the various protocols and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).
One of the reasons given by the Indonesians for their withdrawal was the lack of any guarantee from the BWF on the health and well-being of the players and officials.
There are just too many variables involved when players and officials are required to travel during the pandemic. For starters, there are no direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Aarhus and the chances of being infected during the trip and transits is still an unknown factor.
Although the young and healthy tend to have less severe cases of COVID-19, every case of this disease is potentially life-altering or deadly, particularly in those with risk factors that may occur to players, such as asthma, hypertension, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, immune suppression, or neurologic disorders affecting respiration.
Until the virus either eradicated, a vaccine is developed, or a cure is found, there is no way of completely eliminating the risk of infection.
Should the BWF and it’s members risk our young athletes for what seems to be an exercise of running a tournament purely for financial reasons.
What else would explain with BWF using the Thomas-Uber Cup Finals as a test tournament and the players as guinea-pigs for the coronavirus?
The international tennis calendar did not kick off with the prestigious US Open but with other warm-up events. Even then several players were quarantined and dropped from the Grand Slam after the players themselves or those they were in contact with tested positive.
As for the BWF they are starting off their international calendar with their biggest and more prestigious tournament ahead of the two super series events in Denmark. So it looks like the Finals will be setting the tone as to how the other two tournaments would be played under controlled conditions.
No one is going to question as to why the Thomas-Uber Cup are postponed, if at all the BWF decides to do so. After all other major tournaments including the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Euro 2020, World Athletics Championships, Wimbledon, World Table Tennis Championships have all also been postponed to later next year.
It is decision time for both the BWF and also the BAM.
What is more important than the health and well-being of the young players?