On Friday, Korea and Indonesia followed the lead of Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong and withdrew from the Thomas and Uber Cup, scheduled to be held from October 3-11 in Denmark.
The seven countries cited COVID-19 as the reason for backing out of the biennial international badminton championship. Japan is expected to take the same decision.
The Thomas Uber Cup, if it is held, will mark the resumption of international badminton after it was suspended in March. But the latest developments have forced the Badminton World Federation (BWF) to reconsider holding the event.
On Sunday evening, Former World No 1 and Olympic medallist Saina Nehwal questioned the wisdom of the organisers going ahead with the championship in the middle of the pandemic.
She wondered whether it would be safe to hold the event in the present situation.
“Seven countries have withdrawn from tournament cause of the pandemic…Is it safe enough to conduct this tournament during this time ??… (Thomas and Uber Cup 2020) #coronavirus,” Saina asked.
Saina’s tweet has brought back into focus the safety of sportspersons during the pandemic.
‘It’s the players who make the federations’
The general opinion is that various boards have to consult players regarding participation, and players have the right to choose whether to play or not.
Sunil Yash Kalra, sports expert, feels that players’ voices are being overlooked, and it’s the players who make the federations and not vice-versa.
“Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu are national treasures and it looks like players are not taken into confidence. Badminton Association of India (BAI) cannot bully players to go out there and perform, especially during a pandemic,” says Sunil.
‘Adapting to new normal is key’
With sporting events across the world slowly resuming, there is a growing need to adapt to the new normal at the earliest, say some others.
What if the vaccine does not come till the end of 2021? Or even beyond? Asks sportswriter and commentator Ayaz Memon. Citing the example of IPL 2020 which is being played with all safety precautions, Ayaz feels we cannot wait till a vaccine becomes available. Life must go on, in his opinion.
“Players are free to choose to play or not. Moreover, all the players and countries were willing to play IPL, and hence nobody objected. Last month, when West Indies toured England, three players backed off but the team went ahead and played. So it’s ultimately the players’ choice whether to participate or not ,” Ayaz points out.
Liberty of choice
It is imperative that players are given the liberty of choice, stress yet others.
BAI Secretary Ajay Kumar says if sportspersons are not confident of playing in the COVID-19 scenario, they should be free to say so.
“Players’ safety comes first, before anything else. We cannot compromise on players’ safety. If a sportsperson isn’t comfortable playing, then why should we put pressure on him or her to go out and play?” he asks.
He reveals that only after all the Indian players had expressed their willingness to play in writing (to the Chief National Coach, Pullela Gopichand) were plans taken forward.
Meanwhile, according to sources, the BWF is considering postponing the Thomas and Uber Cup and is likely to make an official announcement soon. Looks like the BWF has buckled under the pressure of players!
(The decision was pending
by the time the article went for press)