The Zheng Qingjin controversy – SBA issues unconvincing, unsatisfactory reply

The report:

The Singapore Badminton Association has come out to defend its decision to re-hire Zheng Qingjin as its technical director, The Straits Times reported today.

Zheng was convicted last year of accepting bribes totalling $6,000 from an SBA coach, You Guangli, in return for recommending him to be the chief coach and later, for his contract to be renewed. He was fined $20,000.

In a statement to the media, the SBA said Zheng has a stellar record and that his employment will “strengthen the leadership team and add to the collective expertise of the coaching staff.”

SBA president Lee Yi Shyan, who approved of the decision to re-employ Zheng, said that there was a tight timeline between now and the 2012 Olympics to reshape our national team, groom our younger players to maturity, and strengthen our training methodology and process.

According to TODAY, Lee also added: ” We have to continue to do well in the immediate tournaments and put in place a succession plan for players and coaches so that we will continue to do well in four to six years’ time.

“Zheng’s joining of the leadership team of SBA will help us achieve our objectives.”

You can read The Straits Times report here.

My thoughts:

I remain unconvinced by the Singapore Badminton Association’s statement (which took three days to prepare, mind you) to the media on its bizarre decision to rehire Zheng Qingjin as its technical director.

There are way too many gaping holes in the statement, which in turn, surfaces some hard questions that need to be asked of the SBA. But, I am sure we are never going to get any from the NSA.

After all, if all they can do to explain why they have re-hired Zheng is to issue a press statement, without opting to field any questions face-to-face, then one can probably expect a stony silence from them with regards to these hard questions, which I am now going to ask:

1. Why was Zheng considered the best candidate for the post?

Who were the other candidates who were being considered? Were there any other candidates at all? And if so, why weren’t they considered suitable to the job? We don’t know because the SBA has conveniently opted not to tel us. In the report in TODAY, all that was said was that the SBA’s development and selection committee unanimously decided on Zheng after looking at other candidates.

BUT WHO WERE THE OTHER BLOODY CANDIDATES, for Christ’s sake?

And did the SBA even consider the fact that perhaps it did not look far and wide enough in its search for a suitable TD? 

2. How does Zheng’s re-appointment strengthen the leadership of the SBA coaching team?

Sure, he may have the technical expertise but the fact remains that he has lost his moral authority as a leader by choosing to accept bribes in the first place.

So how can the SBA management expect the coaches under Zheng to respect him as a leader after his previous abuse of his position of authority, using it for ilegal financial gain from one of the coaches, no less.

How can the SBA expect the morale of its other coaches to be raised when it goes ahead and re-hires someone who once used his position of power to extract financial gain from his coaching subordinates? 

3.  How does the tight timeline between now and the 2012 Olympics justify Zheng’s re-hiring? Is it really such a tight timeline in the first place?

Let me give you an example of how Lee Yi Shyan’s explanation comes across as being really flimsy.

In 2003, Radjoko Avramovic took over as national coach of the Singapore football team. Singapore football had really hit rock-bottom under the disastrous stewardship of Jan Poulsen. Prior to Avramovic’s appointment, the Lions suffered not only an embarrassing first-round exit from the Tiger Cup on home soil, but even lost 0-4 to arch-rivals Malaysia in front of a capacity crowd at the National Stadium.

Two years later, under Avramovic’s guidance, Singapore won the Tiger Cup, beating Indonesia 5-2 in the final. Another two years later, Singapore retained the Tiger Cup – now known as the Asean Football Championship – by beating Thailand in the two-legged final.   

Avramovic was a new coach, completely new to Asean football, having spent most of his coaching career in the Gulf region. Yet, since his appointment, he has guided the Lions to new footballing heights.

My point: the SBA’s explanation of having to re-hire an ex-employee because of a tight timeline is nonsense. 

Is it saying that a new technical director cannot do the job, that it would take too long for a new face to settle down to the task of preparing the national squads to do well in the SEA, Asian, Commonwealth Games and finally the Olympics?

That defies logic.

I mean, look at the Badminton Association of Malaysia. It hired Han Jian as national coach in 1989. The Chinese legend went on to help Malaysia to win the Thomas Cup in 1992.

The BAM then hired Morten Frost in 1997 and South Korean Olympic champion Park Joo Bong in 1999 . Both men led the country to second-placed finishes in the Thomas Cup.

So what is all this nonsense being spouted about tight timelines? And for that matter, is four years realy such a tight timeline? Says who?

4. And finally, was Zheng hired because he was the cheapest option?

After all, an out-of-work former badminton coach would probably be less demanding in his salary demands – and grateful perhaps, to earn a decent pay package again – and be way more affordable compared to someone like say, Park Joo Bong (who apparently signed an annual salary deal worth S$126,000 when he joined the Japan Badminton Association as national coach in 2004. That works out to about S$10,000 a month if you count the 13th month bonus).       

In other words, was Zheng a cheap-and-good option for the SBA? Was that one of the main factors behind its decision?

Cheap option, probably so. But good? Hey, given his past abuse of his position of power, I am no longer sure that he is such a good option for Singapore badminton.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that we will get some answers from the SBA one day.

Because at the end of the day, the fact remains that public money is being used to hire Zheng. And since tax payers’ money is being spent here, I think it is our right to demand some answers from the association.

Let’s hope the media will continue to prod them into giving some proper answers, and let’s hope the SBA shows some guts by tackling these concerns head-on instead of issuing media statements that brook no questions, and act as convenient walls for them to hide behind.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

Related links:

6 Oct – Singapore Badminton: Bereft of ideas, bereft of leadership

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2 thoughts on “The Zheng Qingjin controversy – SBA issues unconvincing, unsatisfactory reply

  1. CK says:

    I read with disgust on the articles ‘Zheng back at SBA’ and ‘Best Man for the Job” on The Sunday Times dd 5 October 2008 and The Straits Times dd 8 October 2008.

    Despite Zheng’s previous accounts on corruption, which was regarded as serious offence in Singapore, SBA was willing to re-employ him at Technical Director. Public’s fear would be that this might be set as a precedent to other NSA’s. (Why worry…..pay your dues and you will get your job back!!)

    To win public trust and confidence, leaders must take upon themselves to set good examples to follow. They need to create a climate of honesty and integrity. Has SBA taken these into account of Zheng’s credibility….if his acts continues it will eventually further destroy the reputation of the NSA and demoralizes their athletes.

    Although Zheng may have paid his dues, why does the SBA need to employ a person, above the retirement age in Singapore, albeit ill health problems too? Would imagine that SBA ought to be much wiser in their recruitment for their association. Or is the SBA a reformative centre?

    It wonders amazingly that Zheng is very much ‘indispensable’ in the eyes of the SBA. Is he capable to meet the target for the badminton team to be in the Thomas / Uper Cup Finals by 2012 and to sustain thereafter? Or would he be able to ‘buy’ foreign talent players and coaches to meet his required target for 2012?

    Needless to say…..much more of SBA’s limelight on the papers today regarding Ramesh, Admin Executive High Performance???Hmmmm?????

    Disgusted,

  2. […] This was one development which really got my goat. You can read about it here and here. […]

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