By Stanley Widianto
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The team were "withdrawn" from the prestigious tournament after they had been instructed by British health authorities to isolate for 10 days because a passenger on their flight to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.
"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," the minister 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 said in a statement on Thursday that the player onboard with the Indonesian team, Neslihan Yigit of Turkey, was also withdrawn from the tournament.
"This is a very unfortunate circumstance and something BWF and Badminton England did not wish for the Indonesian team and Yigit from Turkey," the BWF said.
Desra Percaya, Indonesia's ambassador to the United Kingdom, said that the team should be given a chance to get re-tested for COVID-19 and allowed to play if the results are negative.
"I don't want this issue to be a roadblock in the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and the United Kingdom," he said.
The withdrawal attracted furor 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 fight for it, maybe there's a room open for us to play 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 re-testing of some player samples for COVID-19.
The re-tests, 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 organise 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."
(Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Johan Purnomo; Editing by Nick Mulvenney, Kim Coghill and Toby Davis)