Disgraced shuttler Kenichi Tago is looking to continue his career overseas after receiving an indefinite suspension by the Nippon Badminton Association for gambling at illegal casinos in Japan.
“I only have myself to blame for no longer being able to play in Japan. But I have again come to realize that badminton is the only way for me,” the 26-year-old, who will fly to Malaysia this month to find a new team, told Kyodo News.
Tago lost a total of around ¥10 million over 60 visits to casinos in Tokyo and Yokohama from October 2014 to January this year.
“I’ve no work at the moment and I’m thinking about going abroad to find some,” he said. “I know there are lots of opinions, but I need to find a job to make a living. I’m not sure in what shape or form, but I want people to forgive me for going overseas and being associated with badminton.”
Former world No. 2 Kento Momota, 21, received an indefinite suspension by the association after visiting casinos, first at Tago’s invitation, and missed out on a place for this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where he was expected to compete for a medal.
“I take spoiling his badminton career more seriously than myself getting penalized,” said Tago, who was fired by his employer NTT East, while Momota received a 30-day suspension.
Tago, who was runner-up in the 2010 All England Super Series and became the first Japanese to win six straight national titles in 2013, played down injuries that contributed to his dip in form over the past years and instead cited indulgence.
“It was inevitable I wasn’t getting results, I wasn’t hitting shuttles seriously enough. I have to have a real go to win matches,” he said. “I got into a good company, there was an environment where I could take badminton for granted and there was the prize money too. I was leading a pampered life.
“I cut ties with gambling last winter after realizing I was going nowhere. The results in badminton weren’t coming along and I thought it (gambling) would keep dragging on. It was purely for sporting reasons, and then the report came out.”
Tago said there is no question that what he did was against the rules, but demanded some clarification from the association over his future.
“It’s true I did something bad and I regret my conduct,” he said. “(But) I haven’t been interrogated by the association and haven’t received notification on the punishment either. I’d like to do something, but I can’t tell how much activity I can do in Japan, they aren’t giving me one hint.”