Tall order for new BAM president

Norza and Al-Amin in a show of unity after a special meeting with BAM patron Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor (third from left) and Khairy (second left) at Sri Perdana in Putrajaya. — Photo: MOHD SAHAR MISNI/The Star

Norza needs to crack the whip to bring back glory to the sport 

DATUK Seri Norza Zakaria is the new Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president while acting president Tan Sri Al-Amin Abdul Majid, who officially pulled out from the race for the top post at BAM’s annual general meeting on April 29, will be appointed adviser.

Norza will take over from incumbent president Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff, who has been on sick leave for the last two years.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who made the announcement on Norza’s appointment last week, said a “family spirit” among the BAM council members was the key to solving the tussle for the top post.

Now that the leadership issue has been settled, Norza must waste no time is getting down to serious work as there is loads to do.

Badminton has not been doing as well as it should be as recent results will attest. The results of late in some international competitions show that our players lack the all-important winning mentality.

On many occasions, it’s only our national pride Datuk Lee Chong Wei who keeps the Malaysian flag flying. Chong Wei’s success is due to the hard work he puts in during training, his winning mentality and his battling qualities in every championship.

Obviously Norza and his newly elected BAM council will have their ideas and plans on how to stop the rot and put Malaysian badminton back where it belongs.

While this is very admirable, I would like to put in my two cents’ worth.

For starters, BAM must start from scratch. It’s vital to have a system where a sport like badminton is given full attention during the development process.

We cannot go on hoping that the sports schools will keep churning out players fit for national duty.

The ecosystem needs to be redesigned or reinvented. The top coaches in the country must also spend some time in schools, the best place to spot players with potential and start grooming them while young before they pick up any bad habits.

The Malaysian Schools Sports Council (MSSM) calendar for sports is no longer as competitive as it used to be 10 years ago. Back then, badminton was an active sport and was played from January to June.

In contrast, a mere two-week carnival is held now. This is not the way to unearth new talent.

Fortunately, Malaysia has the Junior Purple League which gives young players an additional eight weeks of competition against the best players in the country.

Secondly, BAM must continue putting emphasis on the coaches’ education programme and lengthen it if necessary.

We definitely lack coaches of a higher level at grassroots development programmes, despite the fact that some ex-players have returned as trainers.

Attachment to foreign associations like the China or Japan BA can only help in the development of coaches. It is believed that Japan and South Korea are producing 70 to 80 professional coaches every year who are then assigned to schools and universities.

Finally, revamping and restructuring the coaching department must be one of the top priorities on Norza’s to-do list.

Do we have the best coaches for the national team? Is Morten Frost being given the best possible support within the association considering all the alleged in-fighting that is believed to be taking place?

Norza must crack the whip and ensure that there are no prima donnas within the association as no one is bigger than BAM or the game.

Anyone who is believed to be a bad influence to others must be expelled. There can only be one head.

It would be advisable for Norza to include some of the legends who had served the country with distinction to be included in certain committees especially in the technical and coaching areas.

These individuals donned the national colours with pride and gave their best to the country during an era when the sport was not as rewarding as it is today. Their assistance, in whatever shape or form, can only help Norza and the BAM on their mission with a new vision.

Norza didn’t mince his words when I spoke to him recently. “Badminton is very close to the hearts of many Malaysians. This is a big mandate and my council members and I are confident that by working together, we can take Malaysian badminton to the next level,” said Norza.

“Our badminton academy is almost complete, and I want to make sure that it is one of the best in the world. We have the offices of the Asian Badminton Confede-ration and Badminton World Federation here, so we need to tap into their resources too. I want Kuala Lumpur to be a Badminton City,” added Norza who is also National Sports Institute chairman.

Norza agrees that the talent base needs to be expanded and that the current system should be revamped so that a new ecosystem can be created.

“We need a bigger talent base. This can only be achieved by reaching out to clubs, schools, private owners and academies by regions, as only then can we have the best in the system.

“I am also looking at creating a national league with a high performance culture. We need that winning mentality from the grassroots,” said Norza.

It is every Malaysian’s fervent hope that the Olympic gold medal that the entire country is craving and hoping for can be snatched in Tokyo 2020.

In sport, impossible is nothing, so badminton fans are keeping their fingers crossed that under the watch of Norza and his BAM council, everything will click and Malaysia will finally bag that elusive gold medal.

Christopher Raj is chief executive officer of ShekhinahPR, a sports public relations agency. Chris’ Twitter account is @chrisraj23

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