During the ties in Group 1 of the Qualification to the 2017 European Mixed Team Championships, Badminton Europe spoke to Israel´s Nir Sade about his double role, as both team manager and umpire in the tournament.
Nir Sade had two roles at the event in Karvina; besides overseeing the Israeli team, he was also umpiring the ties of the other countries. On how this came to happen, Sade explains:
“It´s probably mainly because of the regulations, as each team has to bring an umpire to this event and I am the only BEC Accredited one in my country.”
Israel has a small badminton federation with just 350 registered players. Travelling to the qualification event was expensive, and from that point of view it has been a smart solution for him to be both team manager and umpire.
It might be difficult for some to combine these two roles, but Sade believes he can manage. The difficulty lies in keeping the credibility as an umpire;
“[...] sometimes I have a feeling that when I am cheering for the team then maybe some people in the hall or the referee team could think that I am doing too much noise as an umpire. The players are also looking up to me and they need to see the support from my side, they need to see me cheer for them. So, at first I am with the team and then I just switch, put on my umpiring clothes and umpire for someone else.“
But switching between different roles also has a price, and it can be exhausting when he puts all his emotions in cheering for the team, and then the duty of five matches in a row follows.
“What I cannot change, though, is that even when I am not sitting on the umpire´s chair, the people still know I am an umpire. And then, when we are in the hotel, for example having our dinner arranged, I have to take care of things and be the team manager again. I never really quit any of the two roles.”
Dreams of organizing an event
The current European Mixed Team Championships-format, where five qualification groups take place individually followed by the main event a few months later, is according to Nir Sade a good arrangement. To him, this creates a better environment for the smaller countries participating.
“If you come to an event with 30 teams, everybody wants to see the 8-10 big ones and the rest is there just for “decoration”. When there are only 4 teams, each of them gets their share of respect and presentation, they get to hear their own national anthem and are part of an event with TV coverage. They also receive a better, more personal treatment by the organisers and along with playing in front of such a great crowd like here, the experience becomes exceptional.”
But on the other hand, he wishes that the regulations for hosting such an event could be changed a bit. Sade explains that Israel usually would be seeded 3rd or 4th in the group, and can therefore only come into consideration if the second or first seeds refuse to host the event. Israel’s chances are thus very small, and he wishes his country would get the possibility to host teams like France and Czech Republic.
“A chance to welcome these much stronger teams would give our players and spectators an exposure like never, and would become a festival and a big boost for Israeli badminton.“
In terms of the format becoming more continental, he surely believes that has happened with the qualification groups being allocated in five different cities. But Nir Sade also believes that the qualification groups are still organised solely by “big” badminton countries, leaving out the smaller ones.
With that being said, he is very satisfied with the setup in Karvina, Czech Republic:
“The organisers are doing a great job, putting a lot of effort in their work. They have an excellent, nicely arranged facility, the matches are covered by TV… I cannot really say what was better, if Aire sur la Lys two years ago or Karviná this year as the organisation in both cases was excellent. But I can feel that for the local people such an event is still something extraordinary, a festival, and that´s what makes the atmosphere so special here. A great promotion for our sport.”
Travelling to the qualification can be quite a challenge for Nir Sade and his team due to the precautionary measures that must be taken.
“You see, we are the only Jewish country in the world and there are procedures that we, ordinary citizens, cannot control. In any sport in Israel, if you apply for an international event, especially a big one like European or World Championships, then you have to apply for security. And this is something which takes time. Due to safety reasons, we learn only a week or two before start what the plans are, which hotel we stay in, and how many guards are coming with us (if they are coming).”
The Israeli badminton federation covers the expenses, flights and accommodation, for the security guards when they travel to events. Unfortunately, the expenses rapidly increase as the bookings can usually be made only one or two weeks before departure.
“Although we are trying to calculate with these extra costs it is not always possible to be ready for everything. Once we even had to cancel our participation in an event we entered, because the budget we had suddenly became too low for all that. On top of that, there are also certain rules which need to be followed when for example dividing hotel rooms, so there are a lot of things… “
Sade is aware of the fact that Israeli participation can cause unpleasant difficulties for the organisers, but given the type of country Israel is, the safety must come first.
“But we are not angry about these procedures, because they are something that has made our country safe again,”
The situation for citizens of Israel is a lot different from other Europeans, and Sade often thinks about what it would be like to join events under different conditions in their region.
“Sometimes I just wonder, what it would be like if we lived in a different world, a world without borders and conflicts. It would be great if I could simply take a car and drive to umpire in Jordan, or if there could be a tournament in Beirut, which we could reach in just two hours. We unfortunately can’t. But that´s just the way it is and we are glad to be a part of Badminton Europe.”
What the future holds for Israeli badminton, Sade explains that it is crucial to increase the number of members as it is hoped that it will bring more funding from the government. Right now, they are working hard to introduce Shuttle Time in their schools, and Nir Sade feels that it is a step in the right direction. Last year, they ordered 15 schools sets, and this year they have 90 which are doing to be distributed.
Even though it is more complicated for the Israeli badminton federation to participate or umpire in an event, Nir Sade says that they must accept the conditions and expresses their gratitude towards being a part of the European badminton confederation.