Q: What lured you back to coach the national team?
A: I’m back at Lee Chong Wei’s request. We’ve a father and son relationship. This time, I could not say no to my “son”.
I was not ready when he asked me to come back in 2014. I left the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) six years ago (in 2011) because of a misunderstanding.
But Chong Wei told me to forget the past in an emotional meeting recently. He needs my help. He told me that he had started his career with me and wanted to end it with me. I’ve no heart to ignore his plea this time.
I guided him to reach the world No. 1 spot, but there’s still some unfinished business.
He wants me to help him fulfil his wishes. He is also saddened that there’s no Malaysian to replace him. He wants me to revive the men’s singles department. I told him that I’ll do it for him.
I also wanted to know BAM’s stand before making any commitment. I met up with the president (Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria) and it turned out to be a good session. I’m clear with what they want.
Q: What have you been doing in the last six years?
A: The transition was tough when I quit in 2011 as I missed the players and BAM. But there were some challenges and good memories too. I used to get up early in the morning to go fishing.
Then, I got involved in coaching clinics. I ran programmes for Nusa Mahsuri and the Sports Ministry. I went to all the states to conduct programmes for young talents and share my knowledge. It was fulfilling as I had sessions with their parents too. Nusa Mahsuri have invested in 30,000 juniors over the last six years.
I also conducted centralised training for foreign players. It’s not about ego. I believe in sharing my knowledge of the sport, especially with players or coaches who want to learn.
So, I have been involved in the game for the last six years. Now, I’m looking forward to serving the national team again.
Q: How supportive is your family on your decision to make a comeback as national coach?
A: My family was not surprised at all and they were happy for me. Latifah, my wife, is like a mama to Chong Wei. She told me not to disappoint Chong Wei again. She was upset when I left Chong Wei in 2011. I think she sensed all along that I’ll return to coach Chong Wei again. She is a dialysis patient. Instead of me, my sons will now send her to the hospital every week. It’s a sacrifice. I appreciate her for that. She knows what’s in my heart.
Q: Will your son Ramdan, the 2012 national champion, rejoin the national team now?
A: Ramdan has his own training programme at Nusa Mahsuri, so let’s leave it that way. He reached the final of the National Championships (in February) after coming back from an Achilles tendon rupture (in 2015). He’s a fighter and I’m proud of him. I’m a national coach now but that does not give him any additional privileges. I treat him the same. But like every father my dream is for him to be a world beater one day.
Q: Your task is to produce more Chong Weis for Malaysia. Do you see any potential candidates?
A: The situation looks critical. There are disciplinary issues and a lack of commitment. Chong Wei said that he tried to help, but was seen as being arrogant and egoistic by the players. He struggled to motivate them. I’ll try to do my part as it’s difficult to make an assessment now.
I need to feel and see for myself the quality, attitude and character of the players at the national centre. Nowadays, the youngsters are smarter than the coaches. They go straight to Google or YouTube for additional help. Times have changed and there are other distractions. It takes time for a coach to transfer his knowledge to the players, especially the youngsters.
We’ve many players but it’s hard to find or deal with a talent. He must have the desire to be a champion, absorb what’s being taught and translate it well during the matches. Chong Wei’s like that.
Q: What are changes that you would like to see?
A: I would like to see better results, that’s for sure. Besides Chong Wei, I want to see other singles winners too. There is no such thing as a perfect coach, but I hope to give my all. It’s tricky to deal with players from different eras. Rashid (Sidek) was in a different era when I coached him. Then, there was Roslin (Hashim) and it was followed by Hafiz (Hashim) and Chong Wei. They’re world No. 1 players. It’ll be great to groom another world No. 1. That’s my personal goal and challenge.
Q: You are 57-years-old but still fit as a fiddle. How do you stay in shape?
A: I used to eat 10-15 eggs every morning when I was young. But I’ve reduced the intake now. A balanced meal is important. I sleep early and get up early to do my physical exercises. It’s important to maintain one’s fitness and I enjoy what I do. After all, I need to keep up with all these youngsters. And the players had better be fitter than me.
Chong Wei warns juniors to be prepared for hard work under Misbun