Address declining standard of badminton

The dismal displays by Malaysians at last week’s Celcom Axiata Malaysian Open badminton championships is the harbinger of the falling standard of badminton in the country.

Concerned sports fans, an educationist from a local university, a development officer, an ex-national shuttler and even a former Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) council member wanted to give me a piece of their mind on the pathetic state of Malaysian badminton.

They were all crying out for a change to ensure more Malaysian players make the podium unlike the home tournament at the Axiata Arena last week where only Lee Chong Wei was the only local to qualify for the semi-final stage. The 35-year-old Chong Wei went on to beat Japan’s Kento Momota in the final to win his 12th singles title.

It is like deja vu to me after hearing their grouses, frustrations and concerns. I’ve heard of it, seen it and written about it for far too long.

The main issue is whether the BAM realised that our badminton standard has declined and what steps are they going to take to stem the spiralling standard.

China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Thailand seemed to be moving on a bullet train while we are trying to catch up on a steam locomotive.

It’s pointless to keep bashing Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong, Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying and several other seasoned campaigners – as they are not the root of the problem.

The main reason is our inability to turn young Malaysian talents into potential world-beaters. And don’t say we don’t have the talent. I cannot recall the number of Malaysian world junior champions who have sunk into oblivion because they did not get the right attention and guidance at the senior level.

The BA of Malaysia need to look into a solid structure where potential juniors are groomed and given the right guidance as they move into the senior ranks.

It’s the transition from a junior to senior that is flawed – that’s the ugly truth.

Having a state-of-the-art, one-stop centre at the Academy Bad­minton Malaysia (ABM) to nurture talents is excellent but it’s not enough. What about the states and the clubs?

What are the state presidents doing to nurture fair, harmonious and vibrant junior squads?

Do BAM even recognise the efforts by professional clubs or are they seen as rivals?

It’s ironic that clubs produce talents but their aspiring players are unable to compete in major international tournaments unless they join the national body?

Just look at Japan. They have turned from badminton minnows to medal getters because they have a successful and functional club system.

The clubs are feeders to the national team and having a visionary figure at the national centre like head coach Park Joo-bong makes a huge difference too.

He doesn’t care which clubs the players are from. He chooses the good, committed and disciplined ones. There are no selection disputes, no favouritism and no personal agendas.

Now, if only we have a solid system with more visionaries like Joo-bong in the BAM.

The writer has seen many changes in the BAM over the last 21 years. Some are good, some are bad. She is keeping her fingers crossed that president Datuk Seri Norza Zakaria will do the right thing for Malaysian badminton’s sake.

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