Mathias Boe

Shuttle in India’s court

IF there is a country that can take badminton to greater heights, it’s India.

Former Denmark international Mathias Boe believes India has the potential to be the front runner in moving things for the sport, given the size of its population and huge following in recent times.

Earlier this year, Boe was re-hired by the BA of India (BAI) to spearhead the doubles department, and it proved to be a masterstroke as the Dane inspired the national men’s team to a historic maiden Thomas Cup crown in Bangkok (in May).

According to the 42-year-old 2012 London Olympic men’s doubles silver medallist, part of the responsibility to lift badminton lies on the shoulders of India.

“If there’s one country that can really move things, it’s India.

“Take a look at what they’ve done with cricket and the IPL (Indian Premier League).

It is one of the biggest franchise leagues in the world, after the NFL (National Football League) in the United States.

“With 1.4 billion people, India has the best chance to take badminton to the next level quicker.

“I don’t see the culture changing much in countries like China because the system is such, the national associations have too much power in making decisions, the same with countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.

“Personally, India is the most interesting place to be right now, as far as badminton is concerned,” said Boe, who is also dating one of Bollywood’s biggest stars, Taapsee Pannu.

The Dane pointed out that badminton still has a long way to go before it can be compared to higher-paying sports like tennis and football.

Boe said part of the problem which deters the progress is national associations having too much power.

“Compared to 10 years ago when I was still playing, there is definitely progress, but it is moving too slow.

“The Australian Open (tennis) offers total prize money of A$75 million (RM229 million), while here in badminton, we’re happy with US$1 million (RM4.4 million).

“In the US, for instance, no one knows badminton stars like P. V. Sindhu, Lee Zii Jia or even Lee Chong Wei, but name a random footballer from the English Premier League, and they most probably will. Let’s not even talk about big names like Cristiano Ronaldo.

“For badminton to be considered a professional sport like tennis or football, a lot of things need to change.

Associations in different countries have too much power, they can ban players, and the Badminton World Federation (BWF) allow this.

“I also feel the marketing can be better in promoting the current players and former legends.

“Look at tennis and how they maintain big stars and former legends. You see former stars sitting in the stands to add shine to some of the major tournaments, as well as stars from other sports like David Beckham, for example.

“I have never been invited to any of the BWF majors. In fact, I’ve never seen BWF do that with Lin Dan, Taufik Hidayat, Peter Gade or Chong Wei. Some older fans would still like to see these players. If the BWF do not bring them in, it’s very difficult to turn professional.

“Looking at how demanding badminton is, far too many players are not paid enough,” added the Dane.

Boe noted that fans also play a huge role in putting pressure on the world governing body and national associations by highlighting these concerns.

“With social media, things are changing. I always believe the power lies with the people regardless of culture and society.

“When there is enough protest and demand, things will change, and we’ve seen this.

“One good example here would be when Zii Jia was nearly banned for two years by the BA of Malaysia for wanting to turn professional. The fans made their feelings heard, and the decision was overturned,” he said.

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