Distance no concern for badminton-mad Indonesian followers – Al Jazeera English

Sport has persistently delivered medals for Indonesia because it made its Olympic debut 30 years in the past.
Jakarta, Indonesia – On Saturday morning, when Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu turned the primary Indonesian girls doubles staff to make a badminton closing on the Olympics the 2 girls’s delight echoed round an nearly empty area.
With spectators banned from most Olympic venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been not one of the standard “IN-DO-NE-SIA!” chants, or loud thunder-stick bangs that often accompany the gamers’ victories.
However 1000’s of miles from the stadium, of their homeland, Indonesia’s legion of badminton followers had been thrilled.
Amongst them was Cindy Susanti, 33, a photographer, who had been waking up early to observe each single badminton sport on the Olympics.
From her house in North Jakarta, Susanti shouted with pleasure as Polii and Rahayu gained an emphatic straight-set victory: 21-19 and 21-17.
“There have been individuals beneath my house unit who additionally watched the match. I might hear their screaming from right here,” Susanti laughed: “They shouted IN-DO-NE-SIA!”
Badminton has an enormous following within the Asia Pacific and Indonesia has lengthy been often called one of many giants of the sport, famend not just for its gifted gamers but additionally the eagerness of its followers; a dedication undimmed even amid a devastating pandemic.
Susanti has cherished the sport since she was a toddler. She remembers many college students would carry rackets and shuttlecocks to highschool and play throughout bodily schooling courses and break occasions.
“I’d go to my neighbour’s home to observe the matches as a result of they’d a color tv. Mine was nonetheless black and white,” she recalled, including that she would strive to not miss a single event. Since residing in Jakarta, she has made a degree of going to the Istora indoor stadium, the nation’s high sports activities venue, every year to observe the Indonesia Open.
Being a fan will not be with out its disappointments, in fact.
On the identical Saturday that Indonesia’s girls’s duo made historical past, Cindy additionally watched the seasoned males’s doubles pair, Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, misplaced to Malaysia’s Aaron Chia and Wooi Yik Soh.
“There are occasions when our nationwide groups don’t win as we anticipated however I’ll all the time be there for them,” she stated. “I’ll all the time be a proud supporter.”
The nation gained its first two gold medals from badminton – the ladies’s and males’s singles – on the 1992 Video games in Barcelona, when badminton first turned an Olympic occasion.
Most of Indonesia’s Olympic glory has come from the game, which is dominated by nations within the Asia Pacific. Solely 13 of 116 medals awarded within the event have gone to non-Asian athletes.
“Due to badminton, Indonesia might be identified globally,” Broto Glad, the Indonesian Badminton Affiliation (PBSI) spokesman advised Al Jazeera.
Glad, who was a senior sports activities journalist earlier than he joined PBSI, says the Indonesian badminton staff is a supply of nationwide pleasure.
He remembers the primary pivotal win when the badminton staff gained the Thomas Cup, badminton’s most prestigious event, in Singapore in 1958, simply 13 years after independence. Till right this moment, Indonesia has chalked up essentially the most Thomas Cup victories, with 13 wins. China is behind it with 9 wins.
Indonesia has additionally gained a number of titles on the All England Championships, the world’s oldest badminton event, the place it’s in fourth place by way of total wins with 48 titles, behind China with 85, Denmark on 88, and England on 189.
“In our nation badminton is the one sport that has a nationwide coaching centre,” Glad stated. “We even have dormitories. So our badminton gamers might prepare there with none interruption all 12 months lengthy. Even throughout a pandemic. All they needed to do was concentrate on their coaching.”
Glad places Asia’s love of badminton all the way down to its accessibility and its status as sports activities that may be performed by anybody, anyplace.
“After I was a child I might play it in entrance of my home,” he stated. “Individuals typically play within the small alley. Think about if it’s tennis, you would wish an even bigger area, and a greater floor, and a dearer instrument. However with badminton when the shuttlecocks had been worn out, youngsters might nonetheless play it,” he stated.
Glad says he believes it additionally permits Asian athletes to play to their strengths.
“This sport doesn’t want somebody to have a tall or big-built physique. It’s okay if they’re small so long as they’re agile and athletic,” he stated.
Indonesia’s badminton lovers usually commit all their spare money to watching and supporting their nationwide heroes.
As a scholar in East Java, Arofah used to avoid wasting her pocket cash so she might journey to Jakarta together with her two finest associates to observe badminton competitions in particular person, sharing a resort room to make the journey extra inexpensive.
One of many 25-year-old’s most memorable journeys was to the Complete Badminton World Federation (BWF) in 2015.
“Someday we spent greater than 12 hours inside Istora stadium, watching this world-class event,” Arofah stated. “It was very price it. Nothing beats the sensation of standing there and singing the Indonesia nationwide anthem with the whole stadium. I’ll always remember that.”
Indonesians timeless love for badminton will not be with out heartbreak. The followers have seen the ups and downs of the Indonesian’s nationwide staff, together with in 2012 when the nationwide staff didn’t carry house any medals from the London Olympics.
Djoko Pekik Irianto, a sports activities professional from Yogyakarta State College, says it’s important that Indonesia guarantee there are youthful gamers transferring up the ranks to be able to make sure the nation’s persevering with worldwide success.
“Our nation’s males’s doubles are dominated by our outdated gamers equivalent to Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan,” Irianto stated.
Ahsan and Hendra at the moment are 33 and 36 years outdated, respectively. As of Tuesday, they’re presently ranked second for males’s doubles on the BWF World Rating, behind 30-year-old Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and 24-year-old Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, who’re additionally from Indonesia.
“On the ladies’s staff, it’s much more tough [to see new talents]. So, the issue is within the regeneration. We have to discover extra abilities throughout areas, to seek out abilities who can change athletes like Liliyana Natsir and others,” he stated.
Irianto stated he hoped Indonesia might additional develop its gamers to emulate the success of the Nineties.
“We hope that Indonesia might carry again these glory days once more, so when individuals consider Indonesia, they are going to consider badminton,” Irianto stated.
In the meantime, in her home in North Sumatra, Arofah is trying ahead to Monday’s closing matches.
Polii and Rahayu are again on court docket and going for gold, whereas Anthony Sinisuka Ginting is in competition for the bronze within the males’s singles.
Sleeping child on her left arm, her cell phone within the different and headphones in her ears, Arofah will probably be watching. She simply hopes that quickly they’ll have the ability to do it in particular person once more.
“I hope this pandemic will probably be over quickly,” she stated. “We miss to shout IN-DO-NE-SIA for our nationwide staff at Istora.”
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