Nothing is impossible in sports and the Korean girls proved it by ousting defending champion China 3-1 in the just-concluded Uber Cup final in Kuala Lumpur. Playing as the underdog, South Korea fought its best to foil China’s ambition in taking home the Uber Cup for the 13th time, winning the coveted trophy for the first time.
It was a different fate, unfortunately, for Indonesia’s Thomas Cup team who bowed out to defending champion China. The national team’s ambition to repeat the sweet success at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur, dashed after Taufik Hidayat and teammates lost 0-3.
Reaching the final stage, however, was progress for Indonesia’s Thomas Cup team. It had failed in the semifinals three consecutive times.
The last time Indonesia won the Thomas Cup was in 2002 in Guangzhou, China, defeating Malaysia to craft history as the country with the most victories at the event with 13 wins since 1958, including five consecutive wins from 1994.
Squeezed between reality shows and soap operas, the live matches of the Thomas and Uber Cup finals were slight relief for badminton lovers at home, who threw their weight behind national shuttlers during the biennial events.
Gone were the days when all eyes were glued to the television to witness our national heroes and heroines fighting for the “red and white” at the championships. Support for badminton has declined although the sport remains the only one presenting gold medals for Indonesia at the Olympic Games.
The fact that Indonesia used to dominate badminton will be only a memory if no effort is taken to improve the current situation. It will be harder to find successors to badminton greats such as eight time All England winner Rudy Hartono, 1992 Barcelona Olympics champions Alan Budikusuma and Susi Susanti.
Indonesia must now face the reality of a current title drought. The Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI) chairman Djoko Santoso acknowledged that Indonesia’s development program was far behind its rivals, especially China whose athletes dominate international tournaments. Djoko highlighted the lack of application of science and technology as well as psychological assistance for national shuttlers.
Although the PBSI has aimed at netting younger talents, it needs to build cooperation with clubs as well as schools where abundant talent is available. The PBSI should team up with the National Sports Council, the Youth and Sports Ministry and the National Education Ministry to implement a solid recruitment and development program so that there is no short of talent in the elite national team for the international stage.
With the rising demand on the ban of cigarette sponsorship at sports events, it is a huge challenge for the sports community to finance sports development considering the government has a limited budget for it.
The glorious days of Indonesia’s badminton should serve as a wake-up call that we can do better in the future.