KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s KL Racket Club (KLRC) are going international and could soon have a line-up to match the BA of Malaysia.
Already, they have recruited two foreign players – John Moody of New Zealand and Andrew Smith of England – to play under the banner of the professional outfit owned by Datuk Andrew Kam Tai Yeow.
And the icing on the cake looks set to be: Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia.
Andrew, currently the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) legal adviser and council member, would not deny or confirm speculation that Taufik was poised to join their set-up.
“There is a possibility Taufik will play for the club. That’s all I can say for now,” said Andrew when met at his office at Empire Tower yesterday.
The good relationship between former world champion Taufik and Andrew is an open secret.
Taufik, who recently defended his men’s singles title in the Doha Asian Games, knocking out Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei (semi-finals) and China’s Lin Dan (final) along the way, has frequented the club several times this year for friendly matches.
In fact, Malaysia could be an ideal base for Taufik as he prepares to re-claim the world title when the championship is hosted in Malaysia from Aug 12-19.
“We have several international players knocking on the doors of the club. It will do a world of good for our club to have reputable players as our members,” said Andrew.
Although KLRC are opening theirs door for foreign players, Andrew says the priority remains in providing opportunities for local players.
The KLRC, who were only formed last year June, have become a platform for dropouts from the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) to revive their badminton careers.
Some of their top players are former internationals Sairul Amar Ayob, Lee Tsuen Seng, Ismail Saman, Joanne Quay, Lim Pek Siah, Chor Hooi Yee, Ang Li Peng and M. Sutheaswari.
The club received a major boost on Tuesday when they signed a sponsorship deal with Amer Sports (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, who own the Wilson brand.
To make it more memorable, Sairul and Tsuen Seng, who were this year’s Dutch and New Zealand Open champions, received RM20,000 each as incentives.
Andrew believes that the club system could be the answer for Malaysian badminton and quashed notions that the club were competing with BAM.
“We are here to complement the national body. We want to give a fair chance to players to prove themselves at international level. We have the same goal as the BAM – to make champions out of our players,” he said. “We do not entertain mediocrity. I have promised my players RM100,000 if they win the All-England title. We are serious in developing the sport. It will be good to revive the club systems as that will increase the pool of players for the country.”
There are 15 players under KLRC, including some promising juniors aged between 18-19 years old.
Two prominent coaches in the set-up are Indonesian adviser Indra Gunawan and Ong Beng Teong.
(Note - KLRC’s Lim Pek Siah-Joanne Quay were selected to represent Malaysia in the Doha Asian Games)