JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Indonesia's sports minister has questioned the fairness of the exclusion of the country's badminton team from the All England Open and called on the national governing body to pursue the matter with the Badminton World Federation (BWF).
The team were "withdrawn" from the prestigious tournament after they had been instructed by British health authorities to isolate for 10 days because a passenger on their flight to England tested positive for Covid-19, the BWF said on Wednesday (March 17).
"I lament what happened to the Indonesian badminton team," Minister Zainudin Amali said in a streamed conference on Thursday.
"It wasn't their fault, but they're bearing the brunt."
Zainudin told reporters he understood that a player of a different nationality on the same flight was still in the tournament, which started behind closed doors in Birmingham on Wednesday.
"I urge the association to take measures so that we don't get treated this way," he added.
"If we stay silent - like if we think there's indications of unfairness, injustice - and we ignore it, we'll be seen as weak.
"So I urge the association to take measures to question BWF and its Asia federation so that people know that we won't stand for it. We feel the injustice in our players."
The BWF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The withdrawal attracted furore on social media on Thursday, with the hashtag #BWFMustBeResponsible trending on Twitter in Indonesia, where badminton is hugely popular and leading players are stars.
Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) chief Agung Firman Sampurna said he respected the BWF's decision but was still holding out hope of a reprieve for the players.
"We'll still fighting for it, maybe there's a room open for us at the tournament," he told reporters.
"But if we don't, we don't have to feel bad. We're champions who are postponed."
The BWF had said earlier on Wednesday that the tournament would take place with a full complement of players after delaying the start to allow the retesting of some player samples for Covid-19.
The retests, all of which the BWF said returned negative results, were necessary after doubts were raised about the accuracy of the original batches of tests submitted by Badminton England.
Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, who won the All England Open men's doubles titles with Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo in 2017 and 2018, said the Indonesian players had all tested negative upon arrival in England.
"BWF has failed to organised this matter," he said in an Instagram post.
"If there are strict rules for entering Britain due to COVID, BWF should have put in place a bubble system that guarantees our safety."