PETALING JAYA: It seems a strange cycle in Malaysian badminton.
Players break into the senior team, they are spoon-fed; they make it big on the international stage, they are made into heroes; they age and weaken – and they get into the bad books of the Badminton Association of Malaysia.
One can almost hear Datuk Nik Aziz Nik Mat's comments about people dumping their loved ones after squeezing “all the sweetness” out of them.
Former international and former coach Tan Yee Khan has noticed it, too. “There always seems to be problems with BAM and retiring players,” he says. “They should not part ways on a sour note.”
Current national singles chief coach Misbun Sidek was the bad boy once after being Malaysia's hero in his younger days, his doubles-playing brother Jalani had his fair share of run-ins before calling it quits, Cheah Soon Kit has had his bad days with BAM as has his former partner Yap Kim Hock. Even Rashid Sidek was kicked out of the 1998 Thomas Cup squad before making a final comeback for the 2000 edition. He then quit.
Now, Ong Ewe Hock has joined this long, if not illustrious, list.
After some 14 years in the national team, the 30-year-old, whose playing days look numbered, has earned the wrath of the BAM, and some would say, deservedly so.
After all, he decided not to attend a disciplinary board hearing but stayed away from training saying he had to be at the hearing. He also stayed away from training and did not inform the chief coach, sending messages instead to his assistants.
That sort of behaviour cannot be condoned and he has to face the music for that. But like Jalani himself says, it's not a career-ending offence. And Ewe Hock could yet see the light, mend his ways and be a new Misbun in the making.
Yee Khan, who took charge of the national team from 1979-1984, says Misbun was a difficult player and was sent out of the national team three times. The player had even walked out on his coach.
“He felt the training I gave was insufficient. At a Thomas Cup Finals outing in London, he wanted to train lengthy hours although he had to play the same evening. When he lost the match, we started to point fingers. That was the last straw for me and I quit,” said Yee Khan.
“But he (Misbun) is a changed person now after joining the Nusa Mahsuri. And it will not be fair to use the past to reflect his capability as a coach. I know he loves badminton. When we are young, we tend to show a little emotion and get angry. I did the same when I was young,” he said.
Ewe Hock is not young. But he has been emotional. He had it wrong from the beginning. BAM president Datuk Nadzmi Mohd Salleh gave him a chance to air his views. He came with an eight-man entourage and complained about bad food.
The disciplinary hearing was a chance for him to make his stand; he chose to stay away. He could have got his coach on his side but he antagonised Misbun.
Now, he stands alone, asking to be heard although a decision has been taken and the BAM council will announce the verdict after the Chinese New Year.
Whether he gets a hearing or not is yet to be seen, but if the winds of Malaysian badminton blow the way they have for so long, Ewe Hock could be back in BAM's good books – and make a return as a coach.
The irony of it, would be: it all started with Zolkples Embong asking Ewe Hock to be a coach.