This report appeared in today’s edition of The Straits Times
Shuttlers in limbo
(The Straits Times, 11 Jan 2011)
10 players hit as team of second stringers are dissolved amid revamp
By Lin Xinyi & May Chen
SEVERAL members of the national badminton Team 2 squad are set to walk out on the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA), after 10 singles players were told to choose between helping out as sparring partners or leaving.
Some were given the additional option of seeking a career in doubles.
The Straits Times understands that the 16-strong Team 2 squad – consisting of eight men and eight women – were dissolved recently as part of SBA’s restructuring plans.
A National Intermediate Squad (NIS) for players aged 13 to 17 are expected to be formed soon as part of a strategy to develop youth talent.
A handful of Team 2 shuttlers, including Ngo Yi Chye, who finished 27th in the men’s singles at last year’s World Junior Championships, have been promoted to Team 1.
Team 1 boast the Republic’s best shuttlers like Singapore No.1 Ashton Chen.
The remaining 10 shuttlers from Team 2 have been left in limbo.
Although they have been invited to the NIS, those who join can expect to play the role of sparring partners where they will get no allowance nor opportunities to compete in overseas tournaments. The other alternative would be to leave.
Currently, full-time trainees are paid allowances. Team 2 members were also sent to overseas tournaments such as the Yonex-Sunrise Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold 2010.
The shuttlers affected are Ng Zong Ren, Eugene Sng, Kelvin Ho, Koh Jia Yi, Tan Kia Hwee, Toh Siew Fen, Samantha Neo, Noriko Goh, Aisyah Latib and Li Bo.
Ng, 20, said he has no option but to walk out after SBA officials told him this on Jan 3.
‘I served SBA for 11 years,’ he said. ‘After all our hard work, they asked us to leave just like that. There was no warning. We feel we’ve been unfairly treated.’
Ho is another shuttler who has seen his sporting dreams evaporate overnight.
The member of Singapore’s bronze medal-winning 2009 South-east Asia Games men’s team and 2010 Thomas Cup qualifying squad was told that he was too old to become a world-class shuttler.
The news is a blow to the 21-year-old, who opted against taking his O level examinations in 2007 – despite his father’s disapproval – to train full-time.
A shocked and disappointed Ho added that members of Team 2 were not given ample chances to prove themselves at overseas tournaments.
He said. ‘I’ve no choice but to move on, and hope that going back to studying will give me a better future.’
Others are still mulling over their options. Toh, 18, said: ‘They gave us a week to think it through, but there are some complications and misunderstandings so we need to clarify. They said they’ll still focus on us if we join NIS, but I’m not sure if that will happen.’
The SBA could not be reached for comment by press time.
Earlier in the day, it announced that chief executive Edwin Pang would be leaving the association on Feb 9, after reaching the end of a three-year secondment. Michael Foo, a member of the SBA management committee, will be the acting CEO. The SBA said it will begin the search for a new CEO shortly.
Thanks to the Singapore Badminton Association, parents of children who are talented in badminton now know that the best thing they can ever do for their kids is to discourage them from pursuing their dreams of turning professional.
The way the SBA cruelly axed the 10 shuttlers from their national team 2 squad just shows how much the national body values its full-time players.
My jaw dropped when I read the news report below today.
Effectively, the SBA were telling these teenagers and young adults that they had no more future in the sport, and that if they wanted to continue being in the national set-up, they would have to do it as sparring partners, and get this, without being paid any allowances.
I don’t understand how the SBA could have reached such a conclusion about these 18 and 19 year olds when just a year or two ago, it was inviting them to give up their studies for full-time training.
And now, after giving up two years of their lives, during which they could have completed their further studies, these shuttlers are being thrown out into the cold with not even any form of compensation or word or gesture of thanks and appreciation from the SBA.
Here’s my question to the SBA:
1. How in the world did you conclude in just two years that these shuttlers have no more potential in them to become world-class players? Most of them are just 18 or 19, for goodness sake!
2. And were you even fair to them in the first place?
Did you give them ample opportunities to develop themselves in the two years? I am sure that they, being Team 2 squad members, were not given as much attention or resources as the Team 1 squad. If so, then aren’t you to blame if they have not been developing as well as you would have liked?
This is a black day for Singapore sports.
Sports administrators in Singapore have always been moaning about how it is so hard to get local youths to consider becoming full-time athletes, and here we have a national body who amazingly proceeds to throw 10 such passionate youths out in the streets.
I can only hope that the SBA will end up paying a high price for its decision and suffer the repercussions.
Shame on you, SBA. You guys are the shits and deserve to be spat on.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan