Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (centre) receiving a memento from Lee Chong Wei (right) as Looi Badminton Academy managing director Datuk Jack Koh looks on during the launch of the Malaysia Purple League. - S.S. KANESAN/ The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: An impressive league with big names and big money.
Welcome to Malaysia’s very own professional league - the Malaysia Purple League (MPL).
It will start this year, run from September to February, at the Lee Chong Wei Sports Arena and promises a total prize of RM2mil.
For a start, Malaysia’s superstar Lee Chong Wei and five-time world champion Lin Dan of China are set to be the main crowd pullers – with many more expected to grace the league like four-time world champions Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng of China, South Korea’s Lee Yong-dae and Indonesia’s Markis Kido.
A total of 12 clubs will battle it out with each club handled by Malaysia’s former greats like Lee Wan Wah, Datuk Misbun Sidek, Jalani Sidek, Ong Ewe Hock, Foo Kok Keong, Lim Pek Siah and Chor Hooi Yee. All the matches will be telecast live on Astro Arena (Channel 801), possibly reaching 3.9 million homes in Malaysia.
Each club can include up to four foreign players in a season and an auction of these players will be held later. A club can only bid on a maximum of two players in the top 32 bracket – to ensure the richer clubs do not monopolise the best players.
The format of play is different – each match in a tie will be played on a best of 11 points in three games.
What makes this league different from the ones in China, Indonesia and India is its emphasis on development.
Next year, the league will also concurrently host a league for players aged 19 and younger – creating a large pool of players with the hope of finding new talents.
The MPL was launched on Tuesday in the presence of Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and world No. 1 Chong Wei.
Looi Badminton Academy’s managing director Datuk Jack Koh, who came up with the idea for the league, was happy to see his dream of Malaysia’s own league finally taking off.
“The development of sports is not just the duty of the Youth and Sports Ministry or Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) but that of every individual and the private sector. I am glad to initiate this,” said the former World Junior runner-up, who is currently the owner of Purple League (M) Sdn Bhd.
“We have received overwhelming response and for the next one month, we will be finalising the 12 clubs. I have also spoken to China’s chief coach Li Yongbo, Rexy Mainaky of Indonesia, and Park Joo-bong of Japan and they have been very supportive.”
Khairy gave the thumbs up to the initiative by the private sector to help find new Chong Weis.
“From the legendary Datuk Punch Gunalan and Datuk Eddy Choong to Chong Wei, we as a nation have done consistently well in this sport. While our past achievements in the game should be a source of great pride, we should not simply rest on our laurels. We should work harder than ever to produce players,” he said.
“This is not just an ambitious project but one that will hopefully create a pipeline to ensure that Malaysia will always have badminton heroes to look up to in every generation.”
Chong Wei expressed happiness with the new league, saying: “I have competed in many leagues but this will be special because it will be held at home for the first time. I am looking forward to a quality showing from all clubs.”
OTHER INFORMATION ABOUT THE LEAGUE
1. A club will have a maximum of 20 players.
2. Foreign players are allowed to play a maximum of one match per tie.
3. Player transfer will be established.
4. Points awarded: win (4 pts), draw (2 pts), loss (1 pt).
5. Composition of the tie (two men’s singles, two men’s doubles, one women’s singles and one mixed doubles).