Holding court with a ball

KUALA LUMPUR: National doubles shuttler Soh Wooi Yik had a field day when he donned his favourite Manchester United jersey and football boots yesterday.

Wooi Yik and his teammates had set aside their badminton racquets to play a football match in Bukit Jalil. They also had a game of basketball for fun to break the monotony of training at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM).

And Wooi Yik said he had a ball as football had been his first love.

“It was really fun. We played for 90 minutes and it was a physical match between the singles and doubles players. We lost 4-6 but it’s okay,” said the 22-year-old Wooi Yik.

“Some of the shuttlers do not know the game, so it was hilarious.

“I used to play the game when I was younger.

“At 12, I was already a fan of Manchester United.

“I chose them because they were doing well at that time but over the years, I’ve grown to love the team because their players have a good understanding among them and I enjoy their style of play.”

If not for his father Soh Goon Chup, Wooi Yik would probably have chosen football as his career.

“My father loves badminton and he told me to focus on it and give up football,” said Wooi Yik.

His father’s interest is understandable as he was a former national player who played in the same batch with Datuk Misbun Sidek in the 1980s. Goon Chup was also one of the local coaches in the team when Malaysia won the 1992 Thomas Cup.

Wooi Yik, however, has no regrets taking up badminton.

Together with his partner Aaron Chia, the duo are now the national No. 1 pair and are in the running to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.

The world No. 9 pair have indeed raised the bar since their promotion to the senior team in 2018.

They surprised everyone by reaching the World Championships quarter-finals in Nanjing, China, in 2018, and just months later, the duo upset big names en route to finishing as the 2019 All-England runners-up.

They also lived up to their reputation by winning the doubles gold at the SEA Games in the Philippines last year.

They could have kept their momentum going by achieving more good results if not for the Covid-19 pandemic that had halted all international tournaments since March this year. The duo will not be competing in any tournaments until end of this year but Wooi Yik is fine with it.

“Aaron and I will just continue training and work on improving ourselves,” said Wooi Yik, whose uncle Soo Beng Kiang is also a famous player and a member of the 1992 Thomas Cup squad.

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