Patriot game

PETALING JAYA: World No. 7 Lee Zii Jia insists that he will never turn his back on Malaysia regardless of any circumstances.

The 23-year-old rubbished claims that he would resort to playing for another country in the event that he failed to overturn the two-year suspension imposed on him by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) as a result of quitting the national team.

“The moment I handed in the resignation letter, I have already prepared for the worst. I knew I might get suspended and not be able to compete for two years,” said Zii Jia in an interview with Astro Arena yesterday.

“But it has never come across my mind to move to another country or switch my nationality. No matter what happened, the only country that I want to represent is Malaysia.”

Zii Jia also clarified that he did not hold the BAM to ransom by putting in three requests as conditions for him to remain with the national fold.

The BAM had claimed that they turned down Zii Jia’s “unrealistic” requests of wanting to have his team of coaches and support service, choosing the tournaments and acquiring his own sponsors.

He explained: “BAM tried very hard to convince me to stay. They even proposed several counter offers. I felt very sad, if possible I didn’t want to leave this home.

“But I needed a change, so I proposed to them that if I were to stay then I would like to have my own team and sponsors.

“However, I must stress that these were merely suggestions, it was never meant to be a threat.

“But even at that point of time, I was already very firm about my decision to leave the national team.”

Zii Jia revealed that he first toyed with the idea of turning professional since January last year when he suffered a dip in form and performed miserably in the three World Tour legs in Bangkok.

That intention eventually faded temporarily thanks to the assistance and encouragement from the coaches.

He bounced back strongly to win the All-England two months later.

However, Zii Jia found it hard to maintain his consistency and stay at the top of his game.

Zii Jia failed to replicate the success in the remainder of the season and the thought of leaving the national team had since re-emerged.

“I have tried everything I could to improve but it proved futile,” said Zii Jia.

“In my resignation letter, I mentioned that I could not cope with the pressure and (regimented) environment in the national team as the main reasons.

“Besides, BAM had tried their best to help me and had given me everything that I asked for. So, I was very disappointed with myself that I still could not deliver a satisfactory performance and results for the entire 2021.

“I have to take the responsibility and maybe it’s time to make a change. Since I can no longer improve in the national team, so why not give an independent career a shot?”

So what’s next in moving forward for the national No. 1?

Zii Jia said the immediate task for him is to build his own team as well as identify a training venue for him to set up a base.

Despite his intention to be based back home, Zii Jia has not ruled out the possibility of joining world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen to train together in Dubai.

“Viktor has contacted me and told me that I’m always welcome to join him in Dubai,” said Zii Jia.

“Now that I’m an independent, I’m aware that there are many challenges awaiting me outside. It remains a main target to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics and try to win a medal for Malaysia. Rest assured that I will go all out for it.”

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