One week till world meet but no visa for Hafiz yet

KUALA LUMPUR: World Championships-bound shuttler Mohd Hafiz Hashim is still sweating it out over his visa to the meet in Anaheim, California. 

With only one week before the team's departure for the world meet, the 22-year-old Hafiz is the only one from the 21-member squad without a visa for the trip. 

The world meet is from Aug 15-21 and the players will leave in two batches on Aug 11. 

Last week, on Thursday, the Malaysian squad skipped the morning training session to sort out their visas at the United States of America embassy. Except for Hafiz and Wong Choong Hann, all the visas for the others were processed immediately. 

Choong Hann was asked to leave his passport at the embassy and got the clearance for his visa on Tuesday.  

As for Hafiz, there has not been any news yet. 

Former All-England champion Hafiz is hoping to get the all-clear soon to enable him to fly to the US next Thursday. 

“My passport was returned to me and I was told to go back after a five-minute interview last Thursday with an assurance that they (the embassy) will get back to me.  

“My passport is still with me. They have not called me yet. It has been a week and I am getting a little worried,” said Hafiz after a training session at Stadium Juara in Bukit Kiara yesterday. 

“I have informed the BAM (Badminton Association of Malaysia) and chief coach Yap Kim Hock about this.  

DILEMMA: The Malaysian badminton team will be leaving for the World Championships in California, USA next Thursday but singlesplayer Hafiz Hashim has yet to get his visa from the American embassy. Wong Choong Hann (inset) was earlier denied a visa butlater received one from the embassy.

“This is frustrating. All the players have been cleared but I have to go through this anxious moment. I understand that there are strict measures involved here.  

“But I am just a badminton player who has qualified for a world meet and eager to go to the US.” 

Hafiz, ranked world No. 8 and expected to be seeded eighth at the world meet, however, said he would not allow the visa woe to bother him during training. 

“When I am on the court, the concern over my visa is at the back of my mind. The training has been tough for me the last few weeks. The one-week weight training was good and I am still recovering from it,” said Hafiz. 

“The match practice has been crucial for me in training. A player has to be physically and mentally strong to do well and I am trying to strike a balance here. With my physical condition better now, I am channelling my energy on the tactical part of the game.” 

On his chances in the world meet, Hafiz, who was announced as the eighth seed by the International Badminton Federation (IBF) yesterday, hopes to justify his seeding. 

“The aim is to reach at least the top eight. Out of the eight top players, I am the underdog. But I believe I have an equal chance to win the title.  

“The draw will be out tomorrow (today). I do not have any preference on which player I hope to avoid.  

“The only two players that I have never beaten are Lin Dan of China and Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia. I am ready to face anyone there,” he added. 

Hafiz, who won the back-to-back Swiss and Thailand Open titles this year, was a second round casualty in his first world meet at Birmingham two years ago.  

He did well when he’s not given a high seeding like in the 2002 Thomas Cup Finals in Guangzhou (he upset Bao Chunlai to help Malaysia beat China 3-2 in the semi-finals), 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester (champion) and the 2003 All-England (champion). 

While happy with Hafiz’s performances in training, national coach Misbun Sidek hopes that the BAM would help to resolve the visa matter quickly. 

“We (as coaches) are powerless. This is an administration matter and I will leave it to the BAM to help sort it out. It is pointless to train so hard and not go because of visa problems,” said Misbun. 

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