A sheer lack of self control was displayed for all to see and sent shock waves through badminton fans when, instead of the Canada Open 2013 men’s doubles final in Vancouver, we witnessed punches and kicks between Thais Maneepong "A" Jongjit and Bodin "Art" Issara. It was later reported that A received five stitches to his ear and both were disqualified from the game by the match official.
Opponents Bodin and Maneepong unleashed furious blows on each other’s torso in a manner that seemed clearly about settling personal scores. The embarrassing incident has left the reputation of Thai badminton players in tatters, to put it lightly.
The former Olympic partners, who reached the quarter-finals last year, parted ways when Bodin announced his retirement earlier this year. He made an about-turn a few days later, and since has been paired with players other than Maneepong.
Badminton Association of Thailand boss Charoen Wattanasin said in all his 58 years in badminton circles he had never witnessed such unruly and barbaric behaviour from national athletes.
The question is whether young athletes have any national pride left. Could those responsible for grooming them not only focus on honing their talents but also prepare them to take responsibility for and control of their emotions?
Justifications soon began and the blame game was on: A insisted that Art had instigated the fight and made offensive gestures which led to the embarrassing finale. Both players had been warned earlier by the referee as foul words had been exchanged during the match.
Witnessing two of Thailand’s most promising players at each other’s throats in full view of cameras and photographers was most regrettable because Thai players have had a good reputation on the badminton circuit.
The fiasco has caught the attention of the public, with people amusing themselves by dissecting all the angles of the fist fight on social media outlets. One thing has clearly been determined _ there was more brewing between the duo than healthy competitiveness. Looking from the perspective of an outsider, what unfolded on the small screen came across as the suppressed personal fallout between the two unfortunately exploding at the worst moment.
This incident is an eye-opener to everyone involved in the well-being of national athletes, be it their referees, coaches, administrators, etc. They need to prioritise the players’ mental and emotional health or watch in horror at the ramifications of bottled up emotions.
Veteran French sports photographer Raphael Sachetat, who admires Thai badminton players, said the brawl took him by surprise because he always found Thais to be polite and graceful athletes. His take on the issue _ hire a certified mental-health coach for players to air their grievances prior to going on court. This will help them to not only remain calm when an opponent is trying to agitate them, but also be in control of the direction the game is taking. Among European athletes, he said Danes, in particular, are known to play mind games with Asian players. Here a mental-health coach can also help players stay focused on the task ahead, not just prevent fights.
While the Thais could be staring at a life ban by the Badminton World Federation, it is equally pivotal for the local sporting body to take action against the players, meting out appropriate punishment for their actions. With an increased number of badminton players today, an example has to be set so future athletes know the ramifications of such behaviour.
Being able to manage emotions in this day and age of stress and pressure bombarding us from all directions is often a mammoth task for most people, let alone high-profile national athletes. A number of altercations that led to a life being taken, or beatings leading to physical disability, because a person is unable to control their emotions have made headline news. These send a reminder of the need for each and every one of us to pay more attention to our mental health.