Chong Wei drops stinging shot on country’s state of badminton


PETALING JAYA: It’s sometimes hard to be honest without being harsh, but former badminton great Datuk Lee Chong Wei knows someone has to do it.

And yesterday, the singles legend admitted he was fearful about the future of Malaysian badminton after the national team’s mixed fortunes in the Asia Team Championships at the Setia Alam Convention Centre on Sunday.

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The men’s team lost their title after finishing second to a weakened China team in the final.

The silver medal could not hide the fact that the depth of men’s singles was lacking and some of the doubles players could not beat lower ranked players.

Don’t sit on it: Lee Zii Jia had health issues to deal with while Ng Tze Yong (inset) was still recovering from a back injury during the Asia Team Championships. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The StarDon’t sit on it: Lee Zii Jia had health issues to deal with while Ng Tze Yong (inset) was still recovering from a back injury during the Asia Team Championships. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

Ng Tze Yong was fielded although he was not his best, recovering from a back injury, while Zii Jia had his own health issues.

There were others like Justin Hoh and Cheam June Wei, but they were not included in the team for different reasons.

The women’s team, who failed to go beyond the quarter-finals, showed they were still lagging in terms of standard with teams in Asia.

“I know the truth hurts but I think, Malaysian badminton will only go downhill from here, if nothing is done,” said Chong Wei.

“Right now, I feel like giving up on Malaysian badminton. When I speak the truth, I’m seen as the bad guy. I don’t get paid for trying to help. We can’t be just saying all is good when obviously some things are not right.

“There were setbacks with our top singles players but the fact is that even our back-up players are not on par yet. Other teams rested their top players and gave full mandate to their back-up, but we didn’t take such risk.

“We had our best doubles but at times, they could not even match the teams that brought their second stringers.

“The women too, despite some new faces, have not moved forward. First-time champions India had paraded many youngsters.”

While pointing out the ills, Chong Wei believed there were solutions.

“It has to start with discipline and commitment of players. Tennis stars like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo are a disciplined lot ... they know what it takes to be top stars - all work and no play.

Chong Wei also feels the management should cut the younger players some slack.

“Look at all the other countries, they keep sending their younger players for tournaments. Even if they lose to higher-ranked players, they keep sending them out, that’s how you build their confidence,” he said.

“It’s a process. Here, if the youngsters lose, they are put in cold storage. How are they going to develop their game?

“Of course, we should restrict them if they lose to junior players from Sri Lanka or some lower ranked badminton nations, but it’s okay if they lose to juniors from other top teams.

“I have the experience in this sport, more than 25 years. I know when a player does not give his best or give excuses. Probably, this generation of players have been given too much, unlike during my time.

“We have to make some drastic changes ... if not, we will be left behind, left far behind and badminton will no longer be one of the top sports in this country. I really can’t bear to face that,” added the 41-year-old Chong Wei.

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