SBA insists technical director Zheng is fit for post, despite conviction
By Leonard Lim
LOCAL badminton officials yesterday defended their rehiring of a former staff member convicted of corruption.
They insisted that Zheng Qingjin was still the best man for the technical director’s post, with his main task now to prepare Singapore’s shuttlers for the 2012 Olympics.
Their defence comes in the wake of public criticism following a Sunday Times report about Zheng being rehired last Thursday to fill the same post he had abused to pocket bribes totalling $6,000.
Zheng had stepped down in November 2006, a month after suffering a heart attack.
He came out yesterday to say he would not repeat his mistakes. He also insisted he had shown officials medical reports to indicate he was in good health.
Still, some members of the public were not sure if enough safeguards had been put in place to prevent a repeat of his misdeeds, which saw the Fujian native fined $20,000 last December.
Yesterday, the Singapore Badminton Association addressed those concerns in a statement: ‘Everyone must declare and surrender their gifts (money or in kind) from parents, coaches, players, etc, to SBA.
‘Also, should any staff, coaches or parents suspect any corruption or wrongdoing, they are required to report such cases to management immediately.’
But a close observer of Singapore badminton felt Zheng’s re-employment in his old post was ‘asking for trouble’.
Reader Suri S. also said in a letter to The Straits Times: ‘What is the message we are sending to our children, our sportsmen, our fellow citizens?
‘We do want a spot in the Olympic Games. But winning is not everything.’
Others felt the SBA should have cast its net wider in its search for a replacement, and not gone for a 65-year-old who had stepped down in 2006 citing ill health.
One ‘appalled’ blogger, for instance, said the SBA could learn from how Malaysia scouts for coaches and officials.
SingaporeSportsFan wrote: ‘Over the past 15 years, Malaysia hired former Chinese great Han Jian (who led them to Thomas Cup success in 1992), Danish legend Morten Frost, former Indonesia coach Indra Gunawan…to take charge of their national squads.’
Zheng, former doubles specialist for China, joined the SBA in 1991 as national coach.
He was promoted to technical director in 2002. The role puts him in overall charge of training the national shuttlers and coaches, and recruiting coaches.
It was this last responsibility he abused between 2004 and 2005. Zheng pocketed $6,000 for recommending that former women’s coach You Guangli be made chief coach and that You’s contract be renewed.
But, despite his crimes, the SBA was uncompromising about its choice. It said Zheng, the 2004 Coach of the Year, boasted a stellar record and his employment would ‘strengthen the leadership team and add to the collective expertise of the coaching staff’.
Said SBA president Lee Yi Shyan, who is also the Minister of State for Trade and Industry: ‘Between now and the Olympics in 2012, we have a very tight timeline to reshape our national team, groom our younger players to maturity, and strengthen our training methodology and process.’
Zheng, who last Saturday denied being re-employed by the SBA, said: ‘Since the association needs my expertise, I will definitely do my very best for Singapore.