Badminton Life

South Korean controversy at the Thomas Cup

It has been a rough year for badminton regarding controversy and questionable statements and the sport took another blow this week when South Korea revealed that they had thrown a match against England in the recent Thomas Cup.

Whilst the South Korean team did nothing that was against the rules of the tournament many people feel that their actions are against the spirit of sporting integrity and competition.

If South Korea had defeated England they would have likely topped the group and been given an automatic place in the quarter finals as opposed to being placed in an elimination match before that stage. This would make it seem like an incentive to finish top but when you consider that if they took this route their likely semi-final opponents would have been China, it becomes obvious why the South Korean team could see the benefit of losing to the English badminton team.

A suitably weakened team was selected for the match and England ran out winners by a strong 4 to 1 margin. This was noted when Park Sung-Hwan and Lee Hyun-Il were paired together in the Doubles as opposed to the singles matches. Given that the former is the Asian champion and the latter is the Korean Open holder, it was a move that would have caused much suspicious and surprise.

However, if the tournament is structured in such a way have South Korea acted irresponsibly or have they used tactics to achieve the best outcome for themselves? Perhaps it is jealousy that is fuelling many of the other nations opinions about what has happened as opposed to any great feeling about the death of sporting integrity.

One only has to look at soccer where players can seek a booking to bring in suspensions for less important games or where teams can cynically drop points in qualification matches to achieve a better opponent in a knock-out competition. In these sports, this sort of strategy is complimented upon as it shows a greater understanding of how the event works and indicates how serious the competition is being taken.

The sense of this ploy was shown immediately when South Korea cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win over Canada in their elimination match, setting the team up with a route they found more favourable. There has been suggestions that the Badminton World Federation will be looking for ways to prevent this from happening in the future but given they also have a desire to allow smaller nations to become involved in the tournament, it is going to be hard to satisfy both aims.

There is no doubt that the actions of South Korea has angered some within the sport with a few coaches feeling moved to pass comment but if anything, the South Korean coach, Kim Jong-Soo should be congratulated for negotiating the best route for his team to succeed. Sport is all about the winners and by finding ways to increase the chances of winning; South Korea should be applauded for their approach to the Thomas Cup.

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