KUALA LUMPUR: The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) have finally taken a giant step towards expanding their talent pool.
BAM president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria announced yesterday that the RM2mil AirAsia-BAM National Junior League, involving thousands of schoolchildren, will take flight this year.
AirAsia is the main title sponsor, contributing RM1mil. The other sponsors are oil and gas company Enra Group Berhad RM500,000; Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad (MRCB) RM250,000; and Malaysia Building Society Bhd (MBSB) RM250,000.
BAM patron Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor will launch the league, which is for players aged 18 and below, tomorrow.
The competition’s format is similar to that of the Thomas Cup for boys and Uber Cup for girls.
There’s more good news.
Besides cash prizes, the champions of the boys and girls’ teams will get automatic entries into the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara.Norza said that their back-to-school approach was one of BAM’s first big step in revamping their junior development programme.
“This is the beginning of our revamp. There is no time to lose. We’ll kick off this league in the next three months,” said Norza.
“The inter-school league will follow the Thomas Cup-Uber Cup model.
“Then, we’ll break them into Division One and Division Two teams. There will be a home-and-away concept to it.
“We’ll finalise all the details when we meet the state association secretaries tomorrow (today) and endorse it at our council on Saturday. Then, our patron will launch it.
“More than 5,000 schoolchildren from about 1,000 schools throughout Malaysia will be involved and that, to me is, really exciting.”
He said that all the states would be given three months to get their acts together.
“All 15 states will be involved. The states will receive grants to conduct this inter-school league,” he said.
“We’ve met the MoE (Ministry of Education) and they will help us to facilitate the league. The state sports associations and schools will work together,” said Norza, who does not plan to stop there.
“The next step is to introduce sports science to the players at the lower level, develop good state coaches and improve the facilities.”
Norza hopes that efforts to re-invent the junior development programme would provide the national teams with quality players – especially men’s singles and women shuttlers.