Female badminton champion battles badminton bureaucracy in ongoing court battle

One of the Maldives’ most successful female badminton players is battling the country’s Badminton Association in court claiming she was dismissed for unspecified disciplinary reasons.

Neela Ahmed Najeeb, formerly the only female badminton player on the national team, holds a string of championship medals and several international competitions to her credit. Najeeb said that her abilities meant she could play against men during training sessions “and even beat a few of the good players, enough to compete with them.”

She claims the Association has sought to obstruct her from playing the sport ever since it sent her home from a competition in Sri Lanka in 2006 for allegedly smoking a cigarette.

In May last year, the 25 year-old was suspended from the Association altogether after clashing with her Indonesian coach, whom she alleged attempted to make her run for four hours in punishment for missing a training session – half an hour short of the average marathon.

“I had just started training again and I was not even physically fit,” she says. “I missed practice one morning and the coach told me to run for two hours, but I couldn’t do it – I’ve been in the national team for eight years and we’ve never had to do anything like that before. I ran for 30-45 minutes but I could not run anymore.”

The coach, she said, “didn’t like it, and said I could not join the training unless I ran for another 1.5 hours. I didn’t make it a problem.”

However, Najeeb said that, “a few days later, I missed another training session because of my work, and the next day [the coach] asked me to run for two hours again. I could only do 30-40 minutes, and he said that because I had only run 30-40 minutes the last time, I now had to run three hours.”

Najeeb says she took the matter to the Badminton Association, explaining she did not feel she was capable of running the three hours and was afraid of injuring herself early in the training. But she claimed they sided with the coach, “reasoning that he had a degree in Physical Education.”

“The last time I went to training I said I would run 30-40 minutes, but he said no, now I had to run for four hours.”

“I couldn’t believe it. I told him that was impossible. He became angry and said I was useless, and some things that really hurt me. He asked me to leave the stadium, and made a complaint about my behaviour, and filed a disciplinary case,” Najeeb says.

The next day, according to Najeeb, the Badminton Association sent her a letter saying she was terminated from the national team.

“They didn’t even talk to me. If they are going to fire a player from the national team, they have to give me a chance to appeal. They didn’t do that. I don’t want to be against them, they should be advising me.”

Najeeb had been selected to travel to Greece on June 10 last year for a youth training session by the International Olympic Committee.

However, athletes attending the training required the backing of their local association – and Najeeb claims the national chairman “said he was not going to give it.”

Instead, Najeeb said she was informed her application was invalid following the disciplinary report filed by a coach four years ago for the alleged smoking of a cigarette while attending the Sri Lankan tournament in 2006. “Which,” she added, “was not true.”

“I think this must be personal – this is not what you do to an athlete. You don’t just terminate them,” Najeeb claimed.

“I think Maldivian players deserve better. If you have a problem with a coach, [sporting associations] are supposed to advise you – but the Badminton Association takes everything personally.”

President of the Badminton Association, Ali Amir, told Minivan News that he was unable to comment on Najeeb’s disciplinary action as the case was pending in court, but did confirm that the Association was defending the case.

A senior badminton player Minivan News spoke to, who requested anonymity, said he felt it was unfair that Najeeb had been obstructed from practising for 4-5 years.

“She was not supposed to smoke [while attending the Sri Lankan tournament in 2006], and she did smoke, and was sent back to Male’. We have to sign an agreement [with the Badminton Association], but there was nothing in it saying that if we smoke we are sent back to Male’.”

“After that she was unable to play on the national team for two years. Eventually she was allowed a new coach, but then she was suspended again in May last year.”

“It’s a big loss for her,” he added, speculating that “there is something going on between [Najeeb] and the Badminton Association. I have no idea what.”

“She can’t even play alone – if anyone from the Association sees her in the stadium, they call the guards to take her out. The Association is doing this, not the players.”

The new coach’s running regime was “very ruthless”, he claimed. “If we do not come to the morning session we have to run 1-2 hours that night and lose time training. It’s useless.”

Najeeb said she “will not quit playing a sport I love”, but confirmed that she has been escorted from the stadium “because I don’t have an association membership card. It is really frustrating.”

Najeeb and the lawyer representing her in the case, Mizna Shareef of Shah, Hussein & Co, allege that her suspension contradicts the termination procedure of the Constitution of the Badminton Association as she was not given a chance to defend herself.

“The Association unfairly and quite harshly terminated Neela without establishing adequate cause and without giving Neela the opportunity to defend herself,” Shareef told Minivan News. She added that outside the Association’s own regulations “there are no applicable laws covering this type of situation.”

The case was lodged in May this year but despite having three hearings, Shareef claimed “the Badminton Association has stalled the case by appearing in court without having prepared their statements.”

“The longer this case gets delayed, the longer Neela suffers without being served justice. At this point, there is no certainty as to when the case would end,” Shareef said.

“Neela,” she added, “has personally experienced gender discrimination where the Association has held a different set of disciplinary standards for its male players. If we are successful in getting a judgement in Neela’s favour, it would definitely encourage more woman players to play the sport at a professional level, without fear of discrimination and unfair treatment.”

Najeeb, for her part, describes the time she has been away from badminton as “one of the most difficult times in my life”, and that if she is allowed to continue playing on the national team, “I have faith I can achieve more for my country.”

“I resigned from my job to make the training sessions, but they just took their decision [to terminate me] without thinking. They are misusing their power. For me badminton is my life, and they’ve taken it away from me – twice.”

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27 thoughts on “Female badminton champion battles badminton bureaucracy in ongoing court battle”

  1. Some few egoistic people are ruining good and talented people's careers for nothing!this is absurd and absolutely unacceptable!

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  2. Just look at the sports state minister Biggey then you would understand why the sports system in Maldives is a mess and segregative.
    ...fight for your rights dear lady, but always know its a mans world here in Maldives idiocity rules over realty as most people in command have no clue of their responsibilities. As long as you are a woman and the system remains the same...i feel sorry for other girls yet to come up.
    ..i appreciate your effort to speak out anf fight not only for yourself, but others who dont have the ability for genuine reasons...we need more of you to come out of the closests

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  3. Neela's disciplinary issue was the reason for her suspension and it goes beyond just smoking a cigarette. She was abusive to the national coach with the F word. Her suspension was five years which may or may not be appropriate but discipline is important for a player representing the nation. It is not only one's talent and skill that matters but who she is when she goes to represent Maldives.

    If the rule is no smoking then obviously there will be a consequence and she disobeyed. She tries to get away and thinks she is beyond rules, then she is mistaken.

    As she does not hold the privilege of a national player, she can only get on the court with a membership like others and especially at a time assigned for normal members. Even there she has violated rights and thinks she is beyond others because she has scored some medals. It is not so. She must learn to respects rules make for everyone and the rules do not say...with the exception of the national champion Neela Ahmed Najeeb.

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  4. If Badminton Association allow others to play in national courts why should she be not allowed to play in those courts..If her discipline is bad they can suspend from national team not from the court..You are destroying her career in badminton..

    Please do not she is also a good player and you are discouraging other potential girls coming to play badminton..

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  5. I have heard the story from both sides.

    I think both sides should sit down for a discussion and with an open and sincere mind. It is true that such a good player should be supported and one of the ways to support will be to mentor her on disciplinary issues.

    It is also important that good and young players are committed to the playing. In sports discipline is vital and very strictly observed in other countries especially by those who stay on top.

    Two many issues are mixing here and it is important to separate them here One is the players suspension - five years is heavy. One year would have been appropriate and discipline tied to regular training. The five years suspension and the running for hours, is in my opinion a very destructive punishment and not professional decisions

    On the issue of being sent from the court, as she is not in the national team (which needs to be conditionally reversed)she will have to, at least for the time being, take the membership in my view. She should not let her ego get in her way.

    I hope the Association and this young player can come to terms instead of messing things up more in the court. Court is not the solution.

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  6. Neela wasn't suspended for 5 years but her membership from the National Team was (permanently) terminated and the Association has indefinitely banned her from the National Team.

    Neela, on several occasions, tried to sit down and talk with the Association. But they turned a deaf ear to Neela's pleas and apologies. The exec members of the Association put their personal agendas ahead of what is best for the Association. And Neela, as a last resort, took the matter to Court.

    Even now Neela is ready for an out of Court settlement but some of the egoistical exec members of the Association are too pig-headed to settle matters. There's nothing more to be said. Everyone is suffering because of the callousness of a few.

    it's time we changed the management of the Association and bring in some fresh faces. The current management has too many personal issues and excess baggage.

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  7. honestly all of this is very unprofessional here. true, one has to obey rules, but as said when the rules are been disobeyed the punishment has to be according to it,eg: not like when you steal you would be hanged to death instead of cutting your hand.i mean running for 3 hours!!! seriously??? please tell me the professionalism in that?? when the coach acts as a kindergarten kid how could one expect the players to be professional, after all players follows the coach. and as for the F word, i wonder if there is any proof of it, cuz last time i checked, there is no such evidence. hearing all this, it sounds more like all of this is very personal. i think neela is one very brave girl to take this matter to the courts. am very proud of her!

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  8. Having read the article, I do hope Neela gets proper justice against the Basketball Association of Maldives.

    The decisions that the badminton association of Maldives has taken against Neela is inappropriate. I belive that every organization has its own set of rules and regulations and suspending someone for having a smoke, or even complaining against a coach does not suffice 5 years of suspension from the National Team!

    The Badminton Association has seriously ruined a great player'career by suspending her for so long, not allowing her to play the game she loves and for getting in the way of her involvement in any sports activities.

    What would be the reputation of these associations if it werent for the great players like Neela?

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  9. Neela is a very different player, she has an attitude and the association hesitates to even listen or try . Shes just a child. Association should be fair, If You the writer could check out how the other best women players quit playing.. you will know the truth is the same to Neela.. Association doesnt want good women players. I can name people but the badminton Male' and female would know very well who they are. Association needs to be overhauled. its a mess. most corrupted.

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  10. Wtf! Women shouldn't be playing sports anyway.

    Asthagufirullah!!! do not look at what she is wearing!! Only good Muslim sisters can produce good Muslim brothers.

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  11. My verdict is pro-Neela.Even if she did some mistakes you can't destroy her career. In Islam the religion of this country doesn't allow discrimination and injustices so I call all concerned to give full justice to Neela without any delay.Think of a day all will be revealed.

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  12. I strongly believe that, issue here is lack of understanding on both sides. I believe that all disciplinary actions should be taken keeping in mind that it should benefit the player and the sport. not to destroy both.

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  13. I think she is very young, I feel she should therefore be allowed to return, and given a fair chance to prove her innocence.

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  14. Markaz you are just unbelieveable!

    If you think you are a good muslim brother, you are HIGHLY mistaken!

    Why dont u emigrate somewhere that still treats women like this cos your sort is not wanted in this country

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  15. AS for the badminton, i think both sides are to blame! You cant just miss training, nor can you punish someone with ridiculous workouts!

    I think coach and player need to sit down and sort out their differences!

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  16. Along with cigarette she smokes and use filthy language when she dealt with national coach.
    Discipline is one the core attribute athletes should posses which lack in Najeeb.
    She shouldn't be terminated because which was a huge loss for nation but she should be on hold for long period of time, until she get it right.

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  17. if the coach said 2 hrs then run the damn two hours and quite complaining like a self-important egotistical brat. If you don't wanna run the two hrs then don't miss the damn practice sessions not once but twice, even after you had been warned. And it's not as if you're that important anyway, like hell you're ever gonna participate in an international competition without embarrassing the nation, so good riddance and go work that job you obviously regard as more important than whatever insignificant career you have.

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  18. "Only good Muslim sisters can produce good Muslim brothers."

    Markaz, do you think 'sisters' are there to reproduce more idiot 'brothers' like you?

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  19. hey Markaz, Y women shouldent play sports. heekuraa goi dho. Neela varuge kulhuntheriaku adhi nuves nei. adhi ufedheyne kamuge nishaanehves nei. komme meehakeeves kusheh kurevidhaane meeheh. ehenekey kiyaafa neelaage kurimagu bandhu kollaakah nujeheyne. gina kudhin jey vejen thiulhenee eyna ehaa molheema. hama hageegathugaves neelaa akee varah thafaathu kulhuntherieh. Badminton dheke loabivaa adhi badminton kuriaruvan beynunvaa meehaku kamahvanyaa neela amburaa gaumee teamah gennaane. eyna ah suportves kuraane. aharennakee badminton ah varah loabi kuraa meehakeen. adhi Gaumee Team gai ulhey hurihaa kudhinves varah rangalhah dhanna meehakin.

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  20. Lollies - i understand from your comment that you might be a player yourself. There might be the slightest chance that you might not be earning a living? Unlike most countries, National Players here in the Maldives, aren't exactly paid to play the sports they love. One has to work to keep the food on the table, and then play the sport in any extra time that they have. As important as punctuality is, raising an issue because she had to run for two or three hours just because she couldn't come on time for two practice sessions, because of work doesn't really make her a 'complaining self-important egotistical brat' as you say.You should really understand that Neela, spares the rest of her time just to play badminton, to give her fullest, despite a hard day's work! & I think that's how any Maldivian sports person finds time to play for the Nation. So please Lollies, who ever you are, give her a break!

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  21. BAM (Badminton Association of Maldives) 's management needs to be changed.
    The management consists of individuals who are in their positions helping themselves.
    But its an organization who should work hard to benefit the sport.
    Associations should support the players not discriminate them.

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  22. Oh come on Ms. Najeeb. If your trainer requests to run 2hrs just run or at least try to run. You sounded like you are irreplaceable and self important. Here is piece of advise for you. Rule no 1. respect your coach. no 2. attend to practice on time. no 3.read Dhuroosul Ahulaagu. no 4. read Dhuroosul Ahulaagu
    no 5. read Dhuroosul Ahulaagu.

    If you still don't get it, go to HELL.

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  23. Dear All Readers,
    I'm also a national team player and i knw wat really happened during the practice session's and wat really happened when she came to play after getting suspended from national team....pls read it below...
    * 1st day she came to practice, only for evening session, she did't attend to mornings session and the coach gave her excuse....but for us if we are late or not attend to practise we have to run for 2 hours and he does't accept any excuses....
    * 2nd day same thing repeated but still was given excuse for her...not even asked to run for 5 min even.....so this was not fair and we the national player asked coach y for Neela uar not giving any punishment.
    * 3rd day also same thing repeated she skipped her morning session....and that day with all our pressure coach was forced to give her punishment and she was asked to run for 2 (TWO) hours not for 4 (FOUR) hours...and she replayed that she wont b able to run, so coach told her that she wont b able to attend the session if she does't do and she have to leave the court....she replied telling ok she will go home....so on her way back she send a sms to coach telling "F*** U & UR 2 HOURS".... and we still have the proof, its still there in coach phone......we all have seen that sms from coach phone...after all 99% of the team players are working in different office we also have to got to office but we never skip our practice continuously.....and the time of morning session is 6 - 7 only one hour...i wonder which office she was working that she was not been able to attend her practice due to her office hours????
    * the day she came to play after being suspended from national team one of the senior member of association asked her to make the membership card when she cums NEXT time....and she was not asked to leave the court she was asked to make the card when she cums NEXT time....and that day she left when she was told that.
    * the second day she came again she was asked to make the card with the same person she was told by before and she replied to that person tell "Kon haisiyathakunhey magey kaari card hadhan thi bunaneee? and the person from assosiation was told that the person is the head of one of the department....she replied telling that "ehevenjeya thi departmente' ga thivaaahaka dhakashey" this is the exact way she replied and unfortunately both the days also i was in the hall for my practice.

    So plss Neela Najeeeb. still u have the time to tell the truth to everyone and accept the reality......rather than blaming the association and the coach......there ar lots of female Junior players also there is no discrimination done to the other players.....so y for u....u shud change ur way to talk and learn to respect.

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  24. iam a huge fan of Neela i have seen her play for the past few years and i can still say she is unbeatable so people just let her do what she loves to do. she might not be as perfect as zombie. Good luck in your matches Neela!!!! i hope you win all your events. do not give much attention to the players around you they are just insecure because they are not as famous and good as you. i know your family and i am very sure your success will be threatened by jealous brats like zombie.

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  25. Hi All,

    When you start your way up a ladder, there are personal expectations of how u expect to be treated and how it goes around.

    A player with the status of Neela certainly would have that ego..Thats usual. All the players have,,football, badminton, tennis...you name it..You see it when amateur pple go to play. You see it in their eyes and their actions. It is what to be expected.

    Apparently, Neela expected herself to be excused because of her national status. When the frustration boiled in, she also knew she had not done right by sending that sms to coach. When you are born of your mother, you dont need permission from your father to stay or talk to your mother. Likewise, Neela's point of fame is badminton. Spending that much time in the court and the association would certainly change any ones prospect of getting a permit to play in court!!??

    The issues are with the laws..Ok the association condemned her. But in my point, she should have an associations special permission or permit as you call to play at the stadium..I think the association would have used more of her fame than shame for their own advantages more. Likewise the nation too.

    After this whole big mess, Neela may not like to play the game she loves anymore. It is not about willingness but more about consequences...player, her ex colleagues would go about diferent sides. She will have her self esteem ruined and that my friends, are what makes the racket hit the ball..

    Are players given any counselling? Did the association think that odr dan the game she also has a life??...ya ya..what would you say to dat comment? "play the game or live the life...do one thing" Well.... i think that upto us isnt it? I believe there are personal problems for Neela that have not been addressed. When her behaviors were addressed, was it addressed? was it counselled? U know,,counselling is not for drug addicts only. And the laws....well we all know that side of the story so no point in loud mouthing.

    I have been in a similar situation...and you all can name me "Ego-maniac brat" or whatsoever..But it is my ego. My feeling of importance. My life. Just be fair to pple like us. We also have a life..and the ego has never hidden us from the guilt we hide. We feel bad. But we feel more frustrated when pple play with us. We are rebels...but with cause and with reason. Respect us and we will respect u.

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