KUALA LUMPUR: The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) are ready to “move on” without the country’s top player Lee Zii Jia for the next two years.
Yesterday, the national body took a strong stance by deciding not to register the 23-year-old All-England champion for all the Badminton World Federation-sanctioned (BWF) tournaments, effective Jan 18, as a result of him leaving the national team prematurely.
The decision means Zii Jia’s career will take a huge beating and the world No. 7 is set to drop out of the world ranking.
He was not the only one who faced the consequences for turning pro – his junior and former national No. 1 women’s singles shuttler Goh Jin Wei (pic) was also punished.
She has also been barred for two years from competing in tournaments, effective from Oct 31 last year. Two-time world junior champion Jin Wei had recently announced her intention to make a competitive return as a professional under the KLRC banner despite having announced her retirement not too long ago.
But it’s the absence of Zii Jia that will certainly weaken the national team and jeopardise their bid to contend for podium spots at several major multisport Games that include the Hangzhou Asian Games, Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Vietnam SEA Games.
There’re also the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in Bangkok, where the qualifiers for these two prestigious biennial team tournaments are slated to be held in Shah Alam from Feb 15-20.
While admitting that this could be a setback for the national stable, BAM deputy president II Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohd Yunoos said they preferred to look on the bright side.
“Obviously we feel extremely sad because the story of Malaysian badminton in the last few years has always been about Lee Chong Wei,” said Jahaberdeen.
“We had been trying very hard to build new talent and we have produced a budding talent in the name of Lee Zii Jia and few others, and we wanted them to be inspiring examples to others.
“But when this thing happened (Zii Jia quitting the national team), BAM, as a governing body, have got to do something.
“We’ve got to move on because there’s a need for us to ensure that the existing players are not discouraged, our sponsors too.
“BAM are much bigger than any single player. The quest to train another world-class player must go on.
“This could be just a temporary setback on one hand, while on the other hand this could be a time for another player to step into the shoes of Zii Jia.
“We can’t just look at the negative side of things.”
The door, however, is not entirely shut for both Zii Jia and Jin Wei as they can still appeal their punishment.
The BAM are still harbouring hopes that the duo will make a U-turn on their decision like what former World Junior Championships silver medallist Toh Ee Wei did previously. Ee Wei quit the team, was barred from competing but later, she returned to the national fold.
“BAM are compassionate and we are ready to welcome back these players with open arms, if they are ready to appeal,” said Jahaberdeen.
“It has happened in the past with Toh Ee Wei (mixed doubles). She also faced a two-year sanction but she appealed and we took her back in.”