It seems like it is competition season in China (I have four between now and the end of the year) and now that I am getting better I am getting asked to compete in more. This is a really great development, I have always trained to be competitive and my plan is finally reaching fruition. But it is coming with some strange situations. Some because I’m a foreigner, and some…well, just because Chinese badminton has weird rules I guess. For instance?
In an upcoming team tournament me and my partners combined age must be more than 66. This isn’t a thing because I’m a foreigner, but the rule for everyone which even my coach thinks is strange so I know it isn’t common. (Mixed doubles must be 66, men’s doubles must be 85 or older). Since I’m 41, my coach had to find someone over 25. My club is a very young club with a lot of university students in it, so my coach had a hard time finding someone “old” enough. And of course he wanted someone as young as possible yet also experienced. But he did say he was grateful that I was one of the older members and my age allowed a younger member to play. Many of the younger members can’t qualify to play because their combined ages would be just too young. And my coach had to go outside our club to get enough older men to play.
When my coach went to sign us up for the team tournament he was told I couldn’t compete because I was a foreigner. He eventually talked them into it, but there is still a chance that I won’t be able to play on game day if someone complains. In the official rules there is a rule that says “If a foreigner enters and either a player or a organizer protests, the foreigner can be kicked out.” (They also define foreigner as anyone outside mainland China including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan–which goes against what the Chinese government says, but I’m not going there.)
This is also a very strange rule I have not seen before. Basically, if someone sees me as a threat they can easily have me removed. I think it won’t be a problem this year, it is our first team competition and we don’t have a reputation yet, but if I do good, or even get to the finals, someone can protest and I can be disqualified. Not cool competition, not cool.
In a different competition they had an equally strange and uncool rule. The rule was that in the team competition, only one member of the team could be a expert player. (Xiamen has a lot of semi-pro’s and students who study badminton in college. So in an effort to keep the teams fair and give amateur players a chance they made this rule.) That rule was fine. It was the foreigner rule that bothered me.
So each team was allowed one expert player…OR…one foreigner. So for a team to have a foreigner it would mean they would have to miss out on having a semi pro. So obviously no one was willing to have a “good but not pro level” foreigner on their group. So I couldn’t enter this competition.
Then, just be to more unfair, foreigners weren’t just considered the expert player on a team, but the expert MALE player. I have a very high level female Malaysian friend who entered and had to play men’s doubles. While she’s an awesome player, a mixed team can’t hold up to a men’s doubles team if they are the same level. So she got trounced. If they let her play in mixed doubles they would have a real chance. But thanks to the weird rules (which also classified Hong Kong and Macau and Taiwan players as foreigners) she wasn’t allowed to play mixed doubles.
The Small Stuff
Other things I’ve come up against are smaller, but weird. Like health insurance. Tournaments include health insurance for any injuries sustained while playing…except for me. Because I’m a foreigner I’ve been told I am too expensive to insure and therefore I have had to waive the insurance or not be allowed to play. More expensive? Because my bones are made of gold or something? Last I checked fixing a broken arm or a twisted ankle is the same price no matter Chinese or not.
Being the Foreigner
This was always a worry in the back of my mind. I obviously understand I can’t represent China in international competitions, but I hoped it wouldn’t be such a problem for local ones. I haven’t been outwardly forbidden yet, but my competitions have also been relatively low stakes. I’m worried about when I get a higher level, and start entering regional or even national competitions, if they will just start openly banning me. Even in Xiamen many major competitions have names such as “Chinese Citizens badminton tournaments” or equally patriotic names. Would a foreigner ever have a chance of being the winner at one of those? Or do they have rules preventing it?
I already have a bit of infamy as the only western foreigner playing badminton, and sometimes I get some benefits out of that (like the local Jimei competition is supposed to be for people who work or live in my district, yet they let Azhi be my partner even though he lives in another district just because I was a foreigner and they were being nice to me.) But it has already caused problems and I can only see this getting worse as time goes by.
At least now I have my club, and my coach, who can fight for me but I do see this as a real problem I’ll have to deal with as I get more advanced and enter higher level competitions. Hopefully I’m worrying about nothing, but fingers crossed.