Editorial – Should Lin Dan be given a wild card? No…and Yes.

After the recent hints that Lin Dan could be the surprise beneficiary of a wild card for the BWF World Championships in Denmark this summer, reactions by fans have gone […]

After the recent hints that could be the surprise beneficiary of a for the BWF in Denmark this summer, reactions by fans have gone either one way or the other. Badzine’s Chief Editor Raphael Sachetat explains why he feels the Chinese wonder should be invited…

“I was happy to hear Peter Gade mention that Danish spectators could be surprised to see Lin Dan in the World Championships, this summer in Copenhagen. On paper, the Chinese living legend cannot qualify – unless China chooses both to halve its representation in men’s singles and to move Lin ahead of as many as 8 currently higher-ranked compatriots.

If he can’t participate on “merit” – meaning, because of his world ranking points – he could be invited by the BWF if he is given a “wild card”, just like last year in Guangzhou, where he was given the opportunity to participate even though he had not being playing enough to qualify. Now, with these rumours of him being potentially invited again, the same question arises again: should he be the one who benefits again from an invitation for the world meet?

In my mind, there are pros and cons. Let’s starts with reasons why Lin Dan should not be invited to the World Championships this summer.

First of all, it may have seemed legitimate for China to have this big name as part of their World Championships to bring in more people to the stadium last year, but Denmark may well have other views and may wish to have one of their upcoming youngsters invited instead. As host organisers, that would sound only fair. However, a wild card is not their decision.

Another reason not to invite Lin Dan would be that he didn’t even try to qualify. Here you have an amazing shuttler, who just practises and enjoys life at home while so many others are struggling to get the points to participate in the world’s biggest annual tournament. For some, it’s a dream come true to just be on that list of participants. Should Lin Dan be invited, it means missing the opportunity to grant that dream to one of these athletes. Even if the participation of that player who struggled and didn’t qualify won’t make much difference to anyone but himself, it’s still not really fair, on paper, to give this opportunity to someone who didn’t even try.

Last but not least – and once again I may not make friends with this – I still believe that China is not playing fair in the world of badminton. Again at last week’s All England, I felt that some matches were not played fully by Chinese who were opposed to their compatriots. Once again, it’s a cultural thing: China wants China to win, no matter what name is on top. I’m not here to judge, but I’m saying once again that it clashes with the values of sportsmanship in general. In that sense, why would the BWF make China a big present by inviting Lin Dan to the World Championships if the Chinese keep playing the game like a team during individual tournaments?

Now, let’s take a look at the other side…

Why should Lin Dan be invited? Because sport is not fair in general. It’s always the best who get the medals, and it’s the best who get the opportunity to play in the biggest events. That’s how it is in sport. It just isn’t fair.

In a way, any wild card given is unfair, even in cases where it might seem more appropriate, when it is used to invite someone who has tried hard, or who couldn’t meet the necessary standards for a reason outside his or her control. But a wild card is given at the discretion of the owner of the competition – in this case, the BWF. It will be their decision, and somehow, I feel like it is only fair if they want to invite anyone to make their event better, more spectacular, or more fan- and media-friendly. They have the right to do so for their own reasons.

It’s just one spot and it’s always been a tradition that organizers have the right to invite whom they want. The wild card is the one choice that is made regardless of fairness or merit. Fairness and merit apply to all of the 48 to 96 other players in the draw.

So in this regard, since the wild card is within the rules of the competition – which clearly state that it is the BWF’s own prerogative to decide who will get the spare invitation – that should close all debate apart from those internal to the world governing body. I believe that this debate will take into account what a real treat watching Lin Dan is to fans and what a huge difference his attendance would make.

In my opinion, the World Championships should feature the best players in the world. And I believe that Lin Dan – if he keeps on training as it is said he has been – is still one of the best shuttlers on the planet, if not the best. I also believe that those who need a break should be able to take one – that is, if we wish to guarantee that the top tournaments will continue to have the best players participating. Players like Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan are no longer in their twenties. If they want to last longer, they should be able to manage their schedule with slightly fewer restrictions.

And to be honest, I want to see Lin Dan play again at his best. This might be one of the last chances for us to see him cross swords with Lee Chong Wei. It’s always a delight, and even more so now that it has become such a rarity, unlike when they used to meet on any given Superseries Sunday. Seeing them play just once a year against each other, at their peak, is what I’m really looking for nowadays: these exceptional moments, these matches that everyone will remember.

I have to admit that Lin Dan vs. Chong Wei has a special flavour that no other match-up has, not even Chen Long vs. Chong Wei. So, yes, in my opinion, Lin Dan should be given a wild card again. To have another one of these magic moments, to again feel the excitement.

And for any who believe that Lee Chong Wei’s defeat in Guangzhou had something to do with some kind of manipulation of the air conditioning – which was never proven – at least on neutral ground in Denmark, conditions should be fair, should the two stars meet in the final.

Lee Chong Wei is capable of beating Lin Dan in a major final. And believe me, the flavour of a first World Championship victory would be even sweeter for the world # 1 if his arch rival were part of the event.

All arguments – for or against Lin Dan’s participation – can be heard. Most of them are valuable. But if the decision were mine, I’d give a wild card to the best player badminton has ever seen: namely, Mr. Lin Dan.

You want to have your say? Vote in our latest Badzine Poll on whether Lin Dan should get the wild card or not.

Photos: Badmintonphoto and Patrick Bontant

Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.