Badminton sets accountability bar high, will football and others follow suit?

It was a press conference that will be remembered for a long time.

Akademi Badminton Malaysia (ABM) chief executive officer Michelle Chai faced members of the media at the ABM facility in Bukit Kiara, Kuala Lumpur, to address the national women’s shuttlers’ shocking 3-0 defeat to the Philippines in the quarterfinals of the on-going SEA Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Malaysian sports officials are known to sugar-coat failures, coming up with a litany of excuses. But not this time. Chai and three others – high performance director Dr Timothy John Jones, national singles coaching director Wong Choong Hann, and national doubles coaching director Rexy Mainaky – called a spade a spade.

Chai said she took “full responsibility and accountability” for the dismal performance, adding that she shared the pain, and understood the anger and the disappointment of the fans.

What she said next took accountability in Malaysia to a whole new level.

“The question that the four of us need to ask ourselves is … are we good enough? If we can’t add value to our players, or if the players no longer feel the impact of our contributions … then the four of us should question our reason for being here,” Chai said.

Chai and her team will now go back to the drawing board to address what had happened in the regional Games.

It remains to be seen if other sports officials will take the cue from Chai and her compatriots, acknowledge their shortcomings, and take full responsibility for their setbacks, as Malaysia continues its quest to be world-beaters and to win the elusive Olympic gold medal.

One sport that often comes up short is football.

The Malaysian football squad was yet again, booted from the SEA Games yesterday, following the 2-1 defeat to Vietnam. Malaysia started its campaign with a 5-1 win against minnows Laos before the players were handed a harsh dose of reality against Thailand, losing 2-0.

The last time Malaysia won the SEA Games gold medal was in 2011.

There hasn’t been a peep from the guardians of the sport, who perhaps are hoping that this debacle will soon, and quietly, be forgotten – just like all the previous failures in the past.

The indoor hockey teams also suffered a bruised ego. Two gold medals, from the men’s and women’s teams, were supposed to have been in the bag. But that didn’t happen. The women’s team lost 2-1 to Thailand in the final. The men’s team wasted a 3-0 lead in the final, allowing Indonesia to score three goals, before losing 2-1 in a shootout.

Olympian Maninderjit Singh described the results as “a historical disappointment for hockey” adding that it was a day to be remembered, (for the wrong reasons, obviously).

While it’s still the early days in the SEA Games, some continue to wonder if Malaysia will truly bag the targeted 40 gold medals. If they fail, will the stakeholders face the media and admit to their shortcomings, as Chai and her team did earlier today?

That would be a refreshing, and welcome change, instead of the  feel good, “Look at me… I’m with so and so” wefies that often saturate and clutter social media.

Accountability is generally an alien concept in Malaysia. From politics to sports, the rhetoric is often loud, but rather short on substance.

However, the badminton officials today, have shown that the word still has gravitas and meaning. In so doing, they have raised the bar.

The ‘shuttle’ is now in the court of the other sports officials who have been quick to piggyback on the success of their respective sport, but are nowhere to be found when things go pear-shaped.

UPDATE: ABM, in a statement posted on Twitter at 6.45pm, revealed that Chai has “offered and tendered her resignation” while Jones has been relived of his duties “with immediate effect”.

Main image: BA of Malaysia