All England, Badminton and Indonesia

My friends often ask me what is the most popular sport in Indonesia, and without hesitation I definitely say soccer football, and then, without fail, I mention badminton as the second one. And following the question, usually a long explanation, description and argument about it comes along. PSSI and its issues, corruptions, incapabilities, the hopeful young talents and the future they have; PBSI and its reformation of management which brings better result immediately.

And today, 09 March 2014, is a big day for Indonesian badminton because two Indonesian pairs won two title at All England SSP, Hendra/Ahsan won the men double (MD) title and the ever dependable Tontowi/Lilyana created another history by winning mixed double (XD) three times in a row, a hattrick! The last Indonesian MD pair to win All England title was Sigit Budiarto/Chandra Wijaya in 2003, 11 years ago.

Lilyana Natsir and Tontowi Ahmad at All England 2014, @ http://flic.kr/p/kPY2nC

The final today was superb, all matches were indeed very high in quality. The titles are shared among three nations, China, Indonesia and Malaysia. China as expected came very strong in women division with all Chinese finals in both women double (WD) and women single (WS) discipline. Wang Xiaoli/Yu Yang won over Ma Jin/Tang Yuanting in an intense three games matches. Wang Xixian finally bested the olympic gold medalist Li Xuerie. Malaysia as always is represented by Datuk Lee Chong Wei who neutralized Chen Long of China for the title.

During my last trip, in Budapest, I had a conversation with a Chinese student about sports and little bit about politics and economy as well. He mentioned that actually badminton is a very huge sport there, especially in his hometown as Lin Dan is also from there. Many parents want their children to be like Lin Dan so they put their children in badminton clubs as early as possible. And he said that he knows that one of the nations that can break the “great wall” of China is Indonesia. These two countries are some kind of arch enemies when it comes to badminton until last decade when Indonesian badminton was in a slump and couldn’t compete well with others.

Indeed China is a hard wall to break for other countries. It has the breadth and depth of talents in badminton especially in women division and man single discipline. For example the runner up today, Tang Yuanting is only 19 years old, Li Xerui and Wang Xishian are still in their prime age, 23 and 24 respectively. Chen Long just 24 years old and can compete well with the legends Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan and there are several younger MS players that currently rushing their ranks up nowadays. In comparison, Indonesia has only few names that can be depended on. Currently the gap between Ahsan/Hendra, Tontowi/Lilyana and their backups are quite far. And again there are no Indonesian WS players in the top 10 WBF ranking at this moment; women double is also barely hanging in there. Tomy Sugiarto, despite his magnificent improvement in the past year, he still not in the same level as Chen Long or Lee Chong Wei yet.

However, I believe PBSI is in good hands now. With its reformation in management and bureaucracy, the light of hope is consistently getting brighter day by day. Several players has tremendously improved since the reign of Rexy Mainaky and other Indonesian legends in PBSI, this is really a good sign for a good future. It will surely take time to bring back Indonesian badminton to its glory time once again, but the day will eventually come.

*It was a shame that I couldn’t manage to watch All England live in Birmingham last year during my stay in St Andrews 😦

[Image is taken from badmintonengland photostream]

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