SOUTH Korea made a total mockery of the Badminton World Federation's (BWF) competition format for the Thomas Cup Finals by openly declaring that their best path to the final is by losing all their group matches.
The new format, allowing all 16 teams to move into the knockout phase, was introduced at the 2004 Finals, also in Jakarta.
Yesterday morning, the Koreans fielded their singles players in the doubles and their doubles specialists in the singles to lose 1-4 to England in their opening Group B tie.
Immediately after the defeat, team manager Kim Jong-soo admitted that they had also plotted to throw away their final group tie against Malaysia last night. The Koreans also lost 1-4.
The reason: South Korea wanted to finish bottom of the three-team group to go into the same quarter of the knockout draw with Denmark.
If they had beaten both England and Malaysia to top the group, South Korea will go into the same half of the draw as defending champions China.
If they had beaten England but lost to Malaysia and finish second, they go into the same quarter as hosts Indonesia.
South Korea have yet to feature in the Thomas Cup final.
“It was not a late decision. We had discussed all options and settled on finishing last in the group, even before arriving in Jakarta,” said Jong-soo.
“After studying the draw and analysing our strengths and weaknesses, it was best for us to play against Denmark in the quarters, Indonesia in the semis and China in the final. We had to adopt the best strategy to maximise our chances of winning the Cup.”
Against England, fourth ranked singles player Hong Ji-hoon played in the opening match, going down 19-21, 21-18, 16-21 to Andrew Smith.
Lee Yong-dae partnered third singles player Shon Seung-mo in the first doubles and they defeated Robert Adcock-Robin Middleton 21-19, 21-15.
Doubles player Lee Jae-jin went down 11-21, 19-21 to Rajiv Ouseph in the second singles match and the top two singles players Park Sung-hwan and Lee Hyun-il combined in a 16-21, 12-21 defeat by Christopher Langridge-Christopher Adcock.
Another doubles player, Hwang Ji-man put the finishing touch to the South Korean sham by going down 11-21, 18-21 to Nathan Rice.
In having no qualms over killing the spirit of sportsmanship and depriving the paying fans and television viewers around the world of getting their money's worth, Jong-soo was critical of the competition format.
“We are merely taking advantage of the loopholes in the current competition format, which was created to allow countries to play more matches at the Finals. The fault lies with the organisers and not with the teams,” he said.
“In order to maintain the credibility of the competition, it would be better for the BWF to revert to the previous format where only the top two teams in each group qualify for the quarter-finals. Then, no such plotting will arise.”
South Korea, as the bottom team in Group B, will play against Group A runners-up Canada today for a place in the quarter-finals.