PETALING JAYA: All is not lost for shuttler Lee Zii Jia in his pursuit to play as an independent player.
Long-serving sports official Datuk Sieh Kok Chi is of the opinion that, as a last resort, Zii Jia can dispute his two-year exclusion from international tournaments, which was served by the Badminton Association of Malaysia, at the Court of Arbitration of Sports (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Normally, national athletes are also able to bring their problems to the athletes mediation committee under the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) but Kok Chi said it would be a bit tricky as the BAM president Tan Sri Norza Zakaria is also the OCM president and there could be conflict of interests.
“If athletes like Zii Jia find it difficult to solve issues at home, they can bring their disputes to CAS. It has happened before. The CAS are an independent body that mediate for sports clubs, associations, federation and athletes and settle their issues. This process is costly though,” said Kok Chi.
“There is also the labour court. Cases can be disputed here too if ones’ livelihood is affected as one can never stop another from earning a decent living.”
Kok Chi was responding to BAM’s counter reaction to Zii Jia and also Goh Jin Wei on their decisions to play as professional players. Zii Jia quit on Jan 11 while Jin Wei left the national team last September.
Under BAM’s contract with players, there is a punitive action when players leave the set-up without fulfilling certain criteria.
In 1996, BA of Malaysia made Roslin Hashim and Ismail Saman pay compensation for leaving the national team to join Nusa Mahsuri. In 2011, they prevented Tan Chun Seang from playing in any tournaments but only in Asia for two years after he turned independent.
Kok Chi finds that taking away the players opportunity to play for 24 months is harsh as it would jeopardise their chance to qualify for the Olympic Games.
“Sports has become an industry now and playing badminton is a source of income for these players. So to stop them from playing for a long time does not seem right, unless there were disciplinary or doping issues,” said Kok Chi.
“Of course, I wish for a win-win situation for both but in this case, it looks like BAM have nothing to lose but the players lose their livelihood to have a good and decent life.
“Yes, I’m aware there is a contract but it can always be re-looked, if one party wants too. After all, BAM is a family, it should not end like this. These players are young and have devoted their life for the sport, aren’t there any other ways to find a win-win solution?”
Kok Chi feels more sympathetic to Jin Wei.
“She is a two-time world junior champion, Youth Olympics winner and SEA Games champion. She did not get to play for two years under BAM because of her stomach ailment. Was she compensated when she left last year for all her contributions?
“She has left and decided to stand on her two feet. And now, she wants to play again on her own pace and suddenly, she is penalised too. Why? It seems unfair.