The Sunday Times reported yesterday (5 October 2008) that the Singapore Badminton has re-hired Zheng Qingin as its technical director on a four-year contract – even after the former China national coach was convicted of two counts of corruption in the Singapore courts last year.
Zheng was fined $20,000 for accepting bribes of $6,000 from former national coach and fellow China national You Guangli. He collected $3,000 in January 2004 as a reward for recommending You as chief coach and another $3,000 in February 2005 for recommending that You’s contract be extended for two years.
SBA chief executive officer Edwin Pang referred all media queries to SBA president Lee Yi Shyan who did not respond to the queries by press time.
However, Singapore Sports Council CEO Oon Jin Teik said: ”The man has already been found guilty and paid his dues…He has good technical ability and I’m certain he can contribute to local badminton further.”
You can read the full report here.
I was quite appalled when I read this report.
Firstly, what I don’t understand is this: given the SBA’s extensive network and contacts, was Zheng Qingjin the BEST and ONLY candidate for the job?
Surely not, right?
I am certain that there are many other suitable candidates that the SBA could have considered for the task of getting Singapore into the Thomas and Uber Cup finals by 2012.
Look, every year, top players retire. Subsequently, they re-emerge as coaches. Now, couldn’t the SBA have considered all these other former top shuttlers as possible high performance coaches or technical directors?
Look at the Badminton Association of Malaysia: over the past 15 years, it has shown a bold and pioneering sense of imagination by hiring the likes of former Chinese great Han Jian (who led the country to Thomas Cup success in 1992), Danish legend Morten Frost (who was according to a newspaper report, paid RM$50,000 a month), former Indonesia coach Indra Gunawan, former South Korean doubles ace Park Joo Bong to take charge of their national squads.
Currently, former Indonesian Olympic doubles champion Rexy Mainaky is the BAM’s high performance coach.
And clearly, Malaysian badminton has been the richer for it. Just look at all the successes and top players it has produced over the years under the tutelage of these former badmnton greats.
If the BAM can scour around the region and the world for former top players to coach and guide their national squads, then why can’t the SBA do the same?
Even the Singapore Sports School has shown more imagination than the SBA in this respect – I have it on good authority that the School even held preliminary discussions with Park to get him on board as its coach when it first started out but couldn’t meet his salary demands in the end.
Given the fact that the Singapore dollar is pretty strong compared to the currencies of these other countries, surely it can’t be that difficult to make an attractive offer to any of these top ex-shuttlers or coaches to come on board and take on the challenge of turning our national squads into perennial members of the Thomas and Uber Cups by 2012?
Instead, we’ve gone ahead and re-hired a 65-year-old man whose reputation is in tatters, who has a chequered past and who, apparently according to The Sunday Times report, also has health problems.
Sure, the facts cannot deny that Zheng is probably a very good coach.
After all, he was Coach of the Year in 2005. And during his previous tenure as technical director from 2002 to 2006, he led Singapore badminton to several notable achievements on the international stage.
These included transforming Ronald Susilo into one of the world’s top 10 players and leading the women’s team to the SEA Games gold in 2003 and the Asian Games bronze in 2006.
But surely, all this cannot mean that there are no other equally or more suitable candidates than Zheng around.
I would really be interested in hearing from the SBA the lengths it went to look for someone to fill the technical director’s position. Because Zheng’s appointment looks like a joke right now. A bad one at that.
There was one more paragraph in The Sunday Times report which really made my blood boil. It read like this:
“Queries to SBA chief executive officer Edwin Pang were referred to his president, Lee Yi Shyan.”
In other words, when contacted by the media, Pang decided to let his president do all the explaining.
Good grief. How thoroughly embarrassing. And how completely lacking in guts and courage.
This is really poor form by Pang.
If Pang doesn’t even have the guts to face up to questions from the media about a small controversy like Zheng’s appointment, then it’s time he starts asking himself whether he is the right man for the job, or whether the title of chief executive officer is an appropriate one for him.
Perhaps he should consider changing his designation to “Chief Admin Officer” or “Chief Clerk” instead. It really sounds like an apt and more appropriate description and job title given the way he has reacted to this situation.
Bottom line: If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
If this is the sort of leadership at the helm of Singapore badminton – one that is clearly bereft of ideas and strong and bold leadership - then I am not holding out very much hope for the sport’s future on the international stage.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan