Malaysians grow up playing badminton. But, if they are not given the chance to develop, how can the country have a larger pool of talents?
I READ an article titled Takraw: Malaysia’s sliding into mediocrity on March 10.
In that article, after beating Malaysia in the final of the ISTAF SuperSeries Finals 2013-2014, the team manager for Thailand, Tanawat Prasongchareon, said that a professional league is what made the difference between Malaysia and Thailand in terms of the development of the sport. And I have to say that he was absolutely spot-on. Sadly, a lot of other sports in Malaysia have similar problems.
Apart from sepak takraw, badminton also has similar problems: A lack of talent, especially when trying to find a “successor” to Lee Chong Wei.
Is it simply that Chong Wei is really that perfect that we cannot find someone to succeed him? Or is it simply that BAM (Badminton Association of Malaysia) are not smart enough to locate and develop such talent?
Let us be honest with ourselves. Apart from Chong Wei, none of our players is good enough to win an international tournament. Besides, we now also face difficulties trying to develop players who might bring us success in the future. Perhaps the method used by BAM is not effective anymore; perhaps, like sepak takraw, we need a professional league.
One might ask: What good will professional leagues bring to these sports? Well, simply put: Competition, and hence, development.
Badminton in Malaysia is like football in Brazil: Talent is everywhere. Malaysians grow up playing badminton. Every corner, every day, in housing areas, we can see parents playing badminton with their children with their gate as the net.
If given a chance to develop, there is a good chance that these children might one day become as talented as Chong Wei. But that is the problem: Lack of chances.
The norm in Malaysia is roughly like this: Talented badminton player will compete for their secondary school or state, and be scouted by BAM. BAM will then bring in all these talented players, and try to determine the elite ones, this is because BAM do not need that many players to represent the country.
The non-elite will be left out, and then they will probably end up in another career path. Thus, taking sport as a career has always been a not-so-favoured career path for parents who have talented children. It is too competitive and offers very few chances.
But, unlike the sprint events in athletics (if you are fast, you are fast), upsets happen all the time in badminton. How can we say for sure that this non-elite player cannot become a star in the future when we do not give him or her a chance to develop and compete?
A professional league, in my opinion, would solve the problem. Imagine if there were a professional league with several private professional badminton clubs. By utilising the private sector, it would be like having several BAMs at the same time. There would be plenty of chances for talented players in terms of taking badminton as a professional career, because there would be plenty of chances to compete and develop. And then, like Tanawat said, BAM would constantly have a huge talent pool of high quality players to pick from for international tournaments.
Apart from that, a professional league would also increase job opportunities for coaches, physiotherapists, fitness trainers and other sport-related careers; and also develop a sense of professionalism in players, which has always been lacking.
One might argue that China does not have a professional league, and yet they thrive in the sport. Well, if the method works for them, of course they will continue to use it.
But clearly this method does not work for us anymore. In my opinion, we need a change.
On a final note, there are countries which have badminton professional leagues. One of them is the United States. By doing so, they can promote the sport better; utilise the private sector’s resources to develop talent, which is more efficient; promote professionalism within the sport; create plenty of chances to compete and develop; stay competitive throughout the year; and, most importantly, create a huge talent pool to pick players to represent the country.