Man with a vision

  • Badminton
  • Sunday, 02 Apr 2017

DATUK Seri Norza Zakaria will be challenging acting Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Tan Sri Mohd Al-Amin Abdul Majid after serving as the deputy for the last four years. The 51-year-old was the Malaysian chef-de-mission at the Singapore SEA Games in 2015. Norza, who is very much a hands-on man, speaks to STARSPORT’s RAJES PAUL about his mission and vision for BAM should the council give him the mandate to lead for the new term – 2017-2021. 

Q: Can you explain your decision to seek the BAM presidency? Are you qualified to run the BAM?

A: I’ve re-structured the coaching and training (C&T) committee. I’ve created a high-performance culture.

As chairman of the ISN (National Sports Institute) and as the CDM of the Singapore SEA Games, I’ve integrated sports science and sports technology as the crux. I’ve separated the technical and support services in BAM. We hired Morten Frost as the technical director and Lawrence Chew as the general manager. Morten has given us a robust KPI – that by 2020 we’ll become a badminton powerhouse. Lawrence handles the support service professionally.

The hands-on man: Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria says he’s not a leader who will only show up for medal ceremonies.

There were many issues – like when Lee Chong Wei faced a doping case ... I handled that personally for eight months. We got him the best legal services, dealt with his emotions. We got him out ... he was ranked 182 in the world, but we brought him back to the No. 1 spot.

Usually, Chong Wei is the last icon standing in tournaments, but through the C&T’s processes, we’ve created more icons ... we featured in three out of the five finals in Rio. We reached the final of the Thomas Cup Finals (New Delhi).

People always want to see the next Chong Wei, but that’s WIP (work in progress). We have a special men’s singles project now under Hendrawan, who directly reports to me.

You see, I managed to bring up badminton together with the BAM council. As deputy president, I’ve seen the milestones, the deliverable and I sincerely want to bring badminton where it should be ... it should be a powerhouse again. It’s these aspiration and inspiration of the people of Malaysia that has pushed me. I see it as a national service to work hard and passionately to take this sport forward. So, to the question whether I’m qualified or not ... yes, I’m qualified to take it on.

Q: What is your vision for badminton in Malaysia?

A: My vision is to bring the glory days of badminton back home. People tell me that I’ve done a good job for badminton but they say it can be better. I want Malaysia to be the top three badminton countries in the world and win that elusive Olympic gold medal. And I want this president to bring back the Thomas Cup Finals. It’s no longer a dream but a mission.

It will be not about relying on one person. It has to be an institution, where our world-class players will consistently produce results all the time. So, how do we do that? The high-performance culture must be embedded from the first day a player enters BAM.

The players get the best facilities, support and training when they join BAM. But they must come with world-class mentality and attitude. I’ll eliminate mediocrity. Sports science will no longer complement but be the essence, the core. And the centre will not be a place where every­thing is permanent ... it’ll be a revolving door, where a player can come in and go out and any player from outside can challenge the players inside. It’ll be a robust system and rewards excellence.

I also want to democratise badminton. It means that it’s not only the responsibility of BAM to produce talents. We’ll have zonal academies. This means, the affiliates and clubs will have to be more active in increasing the talent pool.

It will not be the job of BAM alone but the states, Purple League or any other means. It’s like a big movement. It will no longer be traditionally a one-centre for all but I’ll monitor the states so that my vision for a holistic approach will cascade down. The business plan of BAM will also be a business plan of everyone.

The main men: Outgoing Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Arif (centre) with the two men vying for his post – Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria (left) and Tan Sri Mohd Al-Amin Abdul Majid.

Q: Tell us some experiences you’ve had in running other sport associations and dealing with their administration?

A: I’ve just relinquished my post as treasurer with FAM (Football Association of Malaysia). I’ve had the opportunity to be in this two very big sports associations (BAM and FAM). These are all well-administered and well-organised associations. Through these experiences, I have an understanding of committee-driven and management-driven sports associations. These are very important experiences.

As the deputy president of OCM (Olympic Council of Malaysia), I’ve also had the privilege to understand about other associations and how they work. In short, my essence of managing things is about injecting professionalism and good governance. With all these, I hope to take BAM to the next level. The way I run is straightforward – it’s black and white. You can say that I’m colour blind. My system will not be subjected to biases and favouritism. If I’m elected as BAM president, I will also relinquish the post with ISN. I’ll focus on OCM and BAM. There will be no conflict of interests.

Q: In your opinion, what ails badminton in Malaysia?

A: Firstly, we need to bring more professionalism into the administration of the sport. Secondly, the lack of a talent pool. Thirdly, not having a goal that is congruent among the stakeholders. Everyone is living in their own silos. I’ll rectify this. I’ll have a blueprint for badminton and everyone can share it. All can give ideas and plans before I finalise it.

I’ll strengthen Sabah and Sarawak too. I’ll make sure every state will perform as well as the traditional states that have been producing players. I’ll be transparent. I’m not a leader who will only show up for medal ceremonies.

Q: BAM president Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Arif has named a successor to take over from him. In this context, he has publicly declared that there was a “Gentleman’s Agree­ment”. Do you agree that it should be followed? If not why?

A: This agreement exists. It is between all the relevant parties – myself, Tengku Mahaleel, the patron (Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor) and Sports Minister (Khairy Jamaluddin). It’s not so much about the gentleman’s agreement dictating things, it’s about the tradition in BAM. In the past, we’ve always agreed to one candidate before heading for the election. This is to avoid people taking sides, bickering and causing disunity.

There has been talk from the beginning that I’ll take over. The gentlemen’s agreement is my term of reference. Since I became the deputy, I was told that Tengku Mahaleel will pass the baton to me when he steps down. It depends on everyone’s conscience. But, I’m prepared for any eventualities ... I can go to contest. There are a few schools of thoughts and one of them is to let democracy flourish ... I’m okay.

Q: What would your first task be if you are elected president?

A: To meet up with all the stakeholders and understand their issues. I’ll strengthen C&T and management. For me, we should immediately go back to business and win the upcoming Sudirman Cup (May). I’ll make sure the high-performance culture is adhered to. In January this year, we decided to drop players who fail fitness tests. I’m serious about following it through.

Q: What will be your long and short-term goals?

A: The Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 is the long-term. For short-term, I’ll bring all to the drawing board after the election – we have to work as a team – and I’ll instil unity. I’ll call everyone to explain my vision and aspiration and see what they want from me as the new president.

I’ve not forgotten our past legends. I’ll meet up with them and give them a platform to contribute.

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