Malaysian badminton fans should have woken up today without Monday blues after witnessing the men’s team 3-0 success over Indonesia to win the Asia Team Championships title for the first time.
The victory also meant Malaysia exacted revenge on their traditional foes after being on the losing end of the last two team finales.
They lost to Indonesia in the final of this event in 2020 and, a year before that, were upstaged by a star-studded Indonesia at the SEA Games team final in Manila.
In fact, you’d have to go back to the 2014 Commonwealth Games to savour the last time Malaysia won a team event.
On paper, Malaysia were expected to win the 2022 Asia Team Championships.
They had fielded a strong lineup compared to the other teams, were playing at home and backed by the home crowd.
Of course, being favourites to win it and going the distance is a different prospect altogether.
But the manner in which Malaysia convincingly beat South Korea, and later Indonesia to win it should encourage fans and the badminton fraternity as a whole that these shuttlers have the ability to deliver on the big stage.
National coaching director Wong Choong Hann attributed his team’s overall character to this unprecedented victory.
“On paper, we had the strongest team. Due to that, our players were aware how much their opponents wanted to beat them. So to cope with that stress and expectations in itself was an experience.
“We knew our opponents were mainly second stringers, but those players played without any pressure and many of them outperformed themselves. We are happy that even though our shuttlers were taken to the third game many times, they were in control of those situations,” he said.
From an organisational perspective, the Selangor state government did a good job of hosting and promoting the event.
As with any big event, nothing happens without glitches, but the organisers did a commendable job in staging the first badminton tournament in the country since the 2020 Malaysia Masters.
They answered the pleas of fans to air live matches of the national team in the first few days of the tournament, and that helped generate substantial interest by the time the men’s and women’s teams made the semis.
This event also shed a never seen before fascination for the men’s team, who were treated like the Korean pop stars by hundreds of screaming fans.
They were mostly teenage girls, all of whom giddily dashed from the arena as soon as the matches were over to the exit to greet the shuttlers, excitedly clutching on to flowers and cards to pass to their idols.
The raucous reception was perhaps not even expected by the shuttlers themselves initially, but naturally they warmed up to it and acknowledged the love, much to the delight of their squealing fanbase.
Many got caught up in the final euphoria, including the emcee who lost his voice at the end after doing a great job of hyping up the crowd, so much so he struggled to announce the winners to the podium.
It was a fitting finale to a great week of badminton action, and fans will be anticipating the shuttlers to use this achievement as a platform to achieve bigger things in a huge year for the sport.