Japan finally wins their first ever Thomas Cup, after 12 appearances in the prestigious badminton competition, ever since the cup was introduced by Sir George Alan Thomas in 1949. Japan becomes the fourth nation to win Thomas Cup, of which Malaysia, Indonesia and China were the only countries that dominated the sport since 1949. It was the sweetest win for Japan indeed.
If Malaysia were to win the cup last night, I can bet my last penny that PM Najib would declare today as a public holiday, judging by how the premier (and his “lovely wife”) love to be in the spotlight. Too bad Malaysia couldn’t do any better since 1992 when they lifted the cup after a 25-year wait (the last time the country won was in 1967).
Perhaps Malaysia is cursed by the number 25 and can only win after 25 years, meaning the next chance will be in 2018, a 26 years of wait. But many would curse Auntie Rosy as a jinx. And as long as Auntie Rosy is around, the curse will be on the country’s badminton team. Maybe they should try to persuade Auntie Rosy to hug each and every player, before any major tournament (*grin*).
While the bad news was that I couldn’t enjoy an extra holiday today (*sigh*), I won a free breakfast this morning, for betting against Malaysia team. There were four reasons why my bet went to Japan. First, their head coach was Park Joo-bong. Second, the game was held in India. Third, Malaysian badminton players were never consistent. Fourth, Malaysian sports were heavily influenced by politics.
There’re two badminton players who I admire the most – Morten Frost and Park Joo-bong. Morten Frost, former Denmark single player, was easily the most consistent and cool badminton champion ever. He couldn’t be intimidated under any pressures and played beautiful stroke games till you lose your rhythm. Park Joo-bong was easily the best men’s double players not only in South Korea but also the world.
The fact that Japan, under coach Park Joo-bong, managed to beat China 3-0 should have sent signal to Malaysian team that they’re facing a team stronger than Great Wall of China. And if Japan can beat a five consecutive Thomas Cup champion China (2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012) during the semifinals, the writing was already on the wall – Japan is at their strongest level never seen before.
Since 1967 when Malaysia won their Thomas Cup, the badminton team was not the same again. It could be that the effect of 1969 racial riots had slowly spread its tentacles into the country’s sports. Somehow the nation’s badminton team couldn’t find its past glory of self-confidence and fight-for-country thingy, just like how they did it in 1949, 1952, 1955 (later 1967).
If there’s a chance of winning the Thomas Cup, the venue has to be in the country, not anywhere else. Somehow, Malaysian badminton players depend heavily on local supporters, as if their cheers act like steroid to them. And because this game was in India, the steroids couldn’t do the magic. During 1992 Thomas Cup which was held in Malaysia, local supporters were literally at “all hell breaks loose” level in the stadium.
Like it or not, Malaysian badminton players were never consistent when play at a team level such as the Thomas Cup. Sure, for individual championship, you can rely on Lee Chong Wei alone. But they’re as unpredictable as lottery game when come to team championship. In 1992 Thomas Cup, when you expected Razif-Jalani Sidek doubles to deliver easily, they went down tamely.
But when you thought all was lost, underdog player Foo Kok Keong delivered the crucial point. As if injected by cocaine, double players Cheah Soon Kit and Soo Beng Kiang went on to whack Ricky Subagja and Rexy Mainaky. And the rest was history. Soon these heroes became instant millionaires with free cash, houses, lands and whatnot. In short, Malaysian players were never consistent.
This was proven again last night, when Daren Liew made too many mistakes, obviously under pressures. Takuma Ueda didn’t do anything spectacular. It was Daren who delivered free points to Takuma. Of course Kento Momota was the real hero who indirectly send huge pressures into Malaysian team. You may not like this but Lee Chong Wei glaringly outshone the rest of the players, and that was not a good thing especially for a tournament such as Thomas Cup.
During the 1980s,1990s, 2000s, players play for money. No money no talk. It was a period where medals were measured with monetary rewards. Ministers who know nuts about badminton (and even other sports for that matter) would declare top dollars for certain amount of medals or championships. It was a trading market where free flows of money were used to “force” sportsmen and sportswomen to perform.
If that was not enough to send sports down the toilet bowl, politicians and cronies were appointed to the chairmanship, directorship, spaceship (*grin*) in practically all associations, never mind these idiots can’t even spell “badminton” correctly. They blew their own trumpets by offering “expertise” which further confused the already tumbling quality in sports, not to mention elbowing coaches who didn’t want to play ball.
Amusingly, despite millions of dollars spent, there was no Uber Cup, let alone Thomas Cup. What you have were TV presenters holding Thomas Cup replica screaming, hoping and praying for miracles. To be fair, badminton is perhaps the only sport least tainted by politicians’ influence, as compared to soccer. The opportunity to lift the Thomas Cup still exist, but only by doing the right things.
Sports should be separated from politics. Period. Let the best brains and meritocracy prevails in sports. Yesterday was the only peaceful day where all Malaysians, regardless of race and religion, cheers for Malaysian badminton team. So, perhaps PM Najib should lecture his out-sourced racist agencies that “trespasser” Chinese communities do contribute to the country after all. And please get Auntie Rosy not to be bias – hugs and kisses for all players, not only for Lee Chong Wei (*tongue-in-cheek*).
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