Perfect birthday gift for coach Misbun

PETALING JAYA: When Mohd Hafiz Hashim clinched the winning point that gave him the All-England men’s singles title in Birmingham on Sunday, it made his mentor and national singles chief coach Misbun Sidek’s dream come true. 

For Hafiz has succeeded where Misbun had failed as a player in 1986, when he lost to Morten Frost Hansen of Denmark in the final. 

Misbun Sidek

And Hafiz’s 17-14, 15-10 victory over China’s Chen Hong at the National Indoor Arena was just the perfect gift for Misbun, who celebrated his 43rd birthday yesterday. 

Misbun could hardly contain his emotions after watching his protégé end Malaysia’s agonising 37-year wait for the men’s singles crown. 

“I am simply overjoyed. All my hard work has paid off. By helping others to realise their dream, I've also achieved my dream and our country’s dream,” Misbun said in a telephone interview from Birmingham yesterday. 

“I have a different style of coaching and maybe many did not believe in me in the first place and did not even understand me. But today, I am relieved ... I am glad that one of my charges has won this prestigious title. It is an awesome feeling that I have at this moment as a coach. 

“I am satisfied that my five-year plan to make Roslin (Hafiz’s elder brother) as a world number one came true and now my three-year plan to make Hafiz an All-England champion has come to fruition. When I first took Hafiz under my charge in 2000, he had set his mind on winning the All-England title ... it is all falling into place now.” 

Misbun was also quick to give credit to Hafiz for his achivement, saying: “I can only help a player to a certain extent but, at the end of the day, the player has to deliver. And today, Hafiz made everything come true. He has learnt the way I want him to think and play and he went out there and played brilliantly.”  

In the final against Chen Hong, there was not one moment when Misbun doubted Hafiz's capability, even when the Malaysian was staring at a first game defeat when the Chinese led 14-9. 

“I kept telling Yap (Kim Hock) that Hafiz was going to create history during our training in the morning (prior to the match). When Hafiz was trailing 9-14, I turned to Yap and told him not to worry. I know this boy, he relishes this kind of dangerous situations. He likes to fight his way back and, true to my word, he bounced back to win the game,” said Misbun. 

“He played so confidently and he was so agile, so focused and determined ... eager and skilful and it was so nice just to watch him play. And when he won, I was jumping and just cried openly ... I immediately ran towards him and hugged him. It was certainly the greatest moment.” 

Misbun, however, refused to take all the credit for guiding Hafiz into a world-beater but he has pledged to give his best in training the national players under him to win more honours for the country. 

“Just weeks after I began work as the national chief coach, Malaysia have won this big title. Maybe it's just a coincidence. Every coach has his own way of training players and certainly everyone has his own opinion on this matter. Hafiz had also won the Commonwealth Games title under Indonesian Indra Gunawan's guidance,” he said. 

“As a coach, I am here as a doctor to fix their weaknesses. I cannot help players if they do not want to learn. Let's hope that we will continue to produce more good results for the country.” 

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