With Switzerland set to host the BWF World Championships in August this year, Swiss Badminton President Robbert de Kock has said that he wants to popularise the game in his country by following the Indian model which elevated the game in the country against all odds and was now producing world class shuttlers.
In an interview to IANS, he said in a country where football, skiing, tennis and ice hockey remain the most popular sports, the general public is now becoming more aware of badminton and if favourable conditions are created, the country would be able to produce top class players.
"When you talk about Switzerland, you talk about mountains and snows. We are a rich country. Our kids are doing well in skiing, ice hockey, football and tennis. We feel uncomfortable with a game like badminton. We have Swiss champions but we don't have top players," he said.
To popularize this game here, Robbert de Kock said: "We need to look at the development models in other nations and in this regard India stands first for us. Because despite all odds, this game got an elevation and now India is producing world class players in all categories. We will follow the Indian footprints."
Robbert de Kock, whose international career ended in 1996 after the world championship in Lausanne, took over the reins of Swiss badminton five years ago and has been toiling hard to promote the game in the remotest parts of the rich mountainous country.
de Kock, who as a player won European, Dutch and 26 Swiss titles, admitted that he was finding it difficult to popularise the game and vowed to take it to school level curriculum.
"To achieve the goal, I am in touch with the government so that I could get a place in school curriculum," he said.
Elaborating on finding badminton talent, he said unlike India, finding talent in Switzerland is very difficult.
"We have limited human resource and every one is engaged in some kind of activity. As far as badminton is concerned, our main goal right now is to convince the parents to let their child play badminton and this is possible only when they can see a good future as well as money.
"We have a difficult path ahead but with events like World Championships, we are hoping to create awareness about this game and then onwards we will follow the Indian footprint to achieve our goals," he said.
Robbert de Kock is also the President and CEO of the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry and recently witnessed an exhibition match played between four intrepid badminton players - Indians B. Sai Praneeth and Parupalli Kashyap and Swiss players Karin Suter-Erath and Sabrina Jaquet, on a makeshift rubber court set up at Titlis, 10,000 feet above sea level.
The event was organised to promote the World Championships. Swiss Badminton along with Switzerland Tourism and TITLIS cable ways, hotels and resorts together organised this match. Later Swiss Badminton talked about the preparations for the event which is going to happen in Switzerland after a gap of 25 years.
de Kock said that Swiss Badminton has more than 12000 registered players and more than 25,000 amateurs, who come and play badminton at the indoor centres all across the country.
"We have good number of players but very few are keen to pursue badminton as a career because it lacks money. No parents let their children go for badminton. Instead they prefer them to go for studies and earn good money.
"Same was the case in India. Now middle class there is getting richer and are well aware of the fact that sports like badminton can fetch money as well as popularity for their children and that's why they are encouraging their children to play badminton," added de Kock.
(Jayant K. Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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