CHENNAI: It's a few days removed from India’s Thomas Cup victory. But Mathias Boe is already at work, preparing his wards for upcoming challenges. He may be on a short-term deal — it expires before the end of the year — but he’s very clear in what he wants to do. “In your early 20s, you want to collect as many titles as possible,” he says. “Winning the Thomas Cup at such a young age is a very big thing for them. It’s one of the biggest things you can win in our sport but I don’t see an end goal. I want to win more titles with them.”
Easier said than done. Because, in men’s doubles badminton, the hierarchy is like that of a jungle. There is the lion in the forest, then the others. Likewise, in the world of men’s doubles, there is Indonesia and Japan. The others, in reality, have to scavenge.
The numbers bear this sentiment. Since 2018, the doubles pairings from those two countries have won 31 out of 42 titles (Super 500, 750, 1000, WTF, Worlds only). Boe, one of the very few non-Asians to have medalled at the Olympics, Worlds and the Thomas Cup, says he knows what it will take for the likes of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty to beat the best, to essentially become the lions of the jungle.
“When you look at the Japanese, Malaysians, Indonesians... they all have a certain style of play. I feel I have a fairly good idea of what it takes to beat them.“(...) my strongest point during my playing days was my tactical skills and I don’t feel like I have lost that. I don’t feel it’s super difficult to do those tactics against the Malays, Indonesians... whoever we are up against to win the titles.”
That may sound like hubris but the 41-year-old is being confident without being condescending. He has already put in place an elaborate training regimen — Boe calls it the Dane model — and says it’s one of the main things that differentiates his style of coaching from the Indian model.
“My sessions are a bit shorter with higher intensity,” he says. “They (Indian coaches) tend to do longer sessions with lesser intensity. That is the Danish model if you can call it that. That’s how all the great Danes throughout our history have practised. Coming from a country with 5.5 million poeple, one-third of Mumbai, then we do something right to have created something... world champions and Olympic medallists. I’m obviously very convinced that this is the best way to practice.”
He also notes that one of the other differences between his coaching methodology and Indian coaches is his video analysis. “Looking at the small things and seeing if we can try and optimise and get that one or extra points per match... that is normally what makes the difference in top doubles matches... you don’t often get sets like 21-15, 21-16 in a match. You get at least one tight set. If you do video analysis and tell them ‘in this position, you play this, in that position, they will play that and so on, it’s easier. That’s what it takes to score that extra point and that will be the difference.”
He’s also highly conscious of the issue of over-coaching, a worldwide problem. So he prefers to take a backseat. “I’m just a humble tour guide,” he says. “I’m telling them I can’t teach them to play badminton. At the end of the day, that’s on them. It’s what makes them champions. All athletes need guidance but the one that has the best ability to learn and translate that in their game... I’m just a humble tour guide trying to tell them but I feel I’m a qualified tour guide.”
The calendar is on a short break but it returns loaded with Super 1000s, 750s, the Commonwealth Games and the Worlds, all sandwiched in the next four months. Will his confidence translate to titles for his two principal wards? Time will tell.