Malaysia pulls out of Junior Indonesia Open
By Novan Iman Santosa
SURAKARTA, Central Java (JP): The Malaysian team of eight shuttlers made a last-minute decision to withdraw from the US$9,000 Milo Junior Indonesia Open here for reasons not yet clear.
Earlier, 14 countries had decided to withdraw from the event due to security concerns, following heated disputes between President Abdurrahman Wahid and the House of Representatives over the possibility of an impeachment process by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).
"I believe the Malaysian squad decided to withdraw due to foreign media reports on our country's situation which might not reflect the real situation," president director of PT Gematama Kreasindo, the event's organizers, Minarni Soedarjanto told The Jakarta Post.
The former member of Indonesia's squad in the 1960s also regretted the fact that the Malaysian side failed to ask for further information from the organizers or the Badminton Association of Indonesia (PBSI) about the actual situation here.
"Perhaps it is because Malaysia's men's singles consultant Indra Wijaya is in Seville, Spain, for the Sudirman Cup and World Badminton Championships and Malaysia doesn't have another reliable contact person here," she said.
"It would have been a very interesting championship if Malaysia and other countries could have been here. Let's hope they will come next year."
Malaysia's withdrawal leaves Brunei Darussalam and Japan as the only foreign squads competing at the event that is being staged after a four-year absence.
The tournament itself will take place from Tuesday to Saturday, preceded by qualifying rounds on Sunday and Monday.
Japan team manager, Takechika Kudo, told the Post that there was some concern back home, but still the Nippon Badminton Association (NBA) had sent its shuttlers here.
"Yes, we are concerned, but we always send our shuttlers to Indonesia every year and we want to stick to that tradition. Besides, the junior shuttlers need more playing experience," he said.
"This event is also preparation for them before taking part in the Asian Junior Championships in Taipei from July 18 to July 24."
Kudo, who is also the director of NBA, expected his shuttlers to reach at least the quarterfinals in the event. Japan is fielding two boys and two girls who will compete in all five events.
Similar concern was also expressed by Brunei's coach Wahab Mokhsin, saying he was prepared if there were any deterioration in the security situation here.
"But we've been told that Surakarta is basically a peaceful city and mass rioting is unlikely to happen here. But if it does, we will leave because my shuttlers' safety is my priority," he said.
Without so many hard-to-beat countries participating here, Wahab hoped his shuttlers would perform well.
"I hope my boys can reach the last sixteen," he said.
Brunei will field two boys who will only participate in the boy's singles and doubles.