Why Do Badminton Players Exchange Shirts?

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Every so often when you watch badminton games, you see the players give each other their shirts. Have you ever thought that it was a bit weird? Well, there’s a reason for it.

Badminton players exchange shirts as a sign of respect and sportsmanship and is a way for them to cement the moment in history. This often happens in professional men’s singles during big events or intense matches between two rivals who have played each other many times before. By trading shirts, the players get to keep a souvenir from the game to commemorate the match and acts as the ultimate gesture to symbolize their acknowledgment of each other as worthy opponents.

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Where Did Exchanging Shirts Start From?

The act of exchanging shirts actually started in soccer (i.e. football) back in 1931 when France played against England. This was the first time that France beat England and they were so happy that they asked the English players to keep their jerseys as a keepsake. The English team, being good sports, went along with it and they ended up exchanging their jerseys.

From this point on, teams started to copy this tradition in big matches, especially when rivals were playing each other. The act eventually found its way into badminton but it’s unclear as to when it actually started. 

Why Do Only Men’s Singles Players Exchange Shirts?

So far, we only see men’s singles players exchanging shirts in badminton. From what I recall, I haven’t seen the act of shirt exchanging in any other discipline. While only the players themselves know the reasons why they don’t take part in the tradition, I’ll take a swing as to why this is the case.

First off, in the current world, it’s fairly taboo for women to be seen in public with their shirts off and is therefore not socially acceptable. This, in itself, creates a huge barrier for women to take part in the shirt exchange tradition, as they will face backlash from the media and audience if they were to do so.

But what about the men in men’s doubles or mixed doubles? They don’t really ever exchange shirts either. This is somewhat interesting and it can be anyone’s guess. Perhaps it’s because they can only exchange with a single opponent and not both of them unless each person gives up 2 shirts each.

Maybe they can exchange shoes instead! Or rackets? We’ll see in time if players ever start a new tradition outside of exchanging shirts and in disciplines other than men’s singles. It’ll take someone to take the first step in order to make history.

Are the Shirts Sweaty When Badminton Players Exchange Them?

Yes. Yes they are. The shirts are damp, moist, and full of sweat. The players don’t seem to mind though, or at least they don’t show it.

Examples of Badminton Players Exchanging Shirts

Here are several examples of badminton players exchanging shirts.

Exchanging Badminton Shirts
Exchanging Badminton Shirts

Rio 2016 Olympics Semi Finals: Lin Dan vs Lee Chong Wei

The last Olympic match between the legendary Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei. Their epic rivalry throughout the years has come down to a margin of just 2 points in this high stakes match and Lee Chong Wei finally overcomes his arch-nemesis in this thrilling and nail biting match. After the match is done, the legends exchange shirts as an acknowledgment of each other’s legacies.

If you want to read more about Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei, click the links!

2019 Victor China Open Finals: Kento Momota vs Anthony Sinisuka Ginting

After several years, Kento Momota and Anthony Ginting have started a fresh rivalry for the world to keep their eyes on. They meet in the finals of the prestigious Super 1000 Victor China Open and play a spectacular match against each other. It was neck to neck the whole match which created amazing rallies, unbearable suspense, and a historic moment. Kento Momota barely squeezes out the win and the players exchange shirts at the end to acknowledge their hard fought battle.

Tokyo 2021 Olympics Finals: Chen Long vs Viktor Axelsen

Chen Long congratulates Viktor Axelsen for his gold medal win in Tokyo and asks to exchange shirts. Victor Axelsen breaks the Asian dominated men’s singles field by claiming the first Olympic gold by a European player since 1996, which was when Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen – the current president of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) – won an Olympic men’s singles gold.

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