KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian badminton needs a supremo — a chief coach with full control to make decisions on team matters.
Former national No. 1 Ong Ewe Hock feels such a person is needed to run the show as there were too many meddling hands interfering with the team.
“In China, Li Yongbo calls the shots on coaching and training. He selects the players and monitors the coaches. The management are there to support but not to interfere. In Malaysia though, we don’t have one, but many, involved in decision making in coaching and training matters,” said Ewe Hock, who hopes his frank assessment will be taken in the right spirit.
In the singles department, Rashid Sidek is the chief coach but only for the men as the women are under Chi Shanrong. In the doubles, Tan Kim Her is the chief coach but only for the men. He has no say in the programmes run by Rexy Mainaky for the women’s doubles and Jeremy Gan for the mixed doubles.
All these coaches and players are under two teams of overseers — the coaching and training committee headed by BAM secretary Ng Chin Chai, and the four-man high performances team comprising Chin Chai, Wong Ah Jit, Datuk James Selvaraj and Mohd Ariffin Ghani.
Ariffin came into the picture at a later state as BAM felt that it was important to also have input from the National Sports Council (NSC) and this team’s job is only until the London Olympics.
“There are just too many heads. The Thomas Cup Finals are coming up (May 20-27 in Wuhan) and I wonder who is calling the shots on the selection of players — the management or the coaches? The coaches should know best.
“There should be one chief coach or even one coaching director. He should make decisions and be responsible or be accountable for it. If he fails, he should go.”
Ewe Hock, who is currently co-owner of the company that promotes the badminton brand XTRM, recalled his 10-year stint as a national player from 1992 to 2002.
“I was under seven coaches — Yang Yang, Han Jian, Morten Frost Hansen, Misbun Sidek, Chen Changjie, Park Joo-bong and Indra Gunawan. I think Malaysia’s singles enjoyed their best year under Indra. We had about five to seven players in the top rankings. Indra had the say in selection matters.”
In fact, Indra’s boldness in giving youngsters Lee Tsuen Seng and Mohd Hafiz Hashim a chance to feature in the 2002 Thomas Cup Finals in Guangzhou bore fruit when Malaysia reached the final after upsetting China in the semi-finals.
Ewe Hock also hoped that the selection of players would be more open.
“The best players should represent the country. In the United States, a special trial for the Olympic Games is conducted and it is open to everyone. Only the best get to go. If they are injured or unable to make it to the trials, they don’t get selected,” said Ewe Hock.
“There are more clubs mushrooming in Malaysia. Their players should be given an equal chance and opportunity to represent the country. There should be healthy rivalry as eventually the nation will benefit.”
Ewe Hock said he was happy to note BAM’s improved financial position.
“Many major companies are supporting the national body and this is good. Those days, BAM used to delay payments because of financial constraints. Now, they can send more juniors for international tournaments. I used to receive RM1,300 as a senior player and now, a back-up player gets that. This is good,” he said.
On the current top two singles players in the world — Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan — Ewe Hock said: “They are skilful and are special with their own styles but, eventually, the outcome of matches between these two players boils down to who is mentally stronger.
“Remember this year’s Australian Open final (between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic)? Physically, Djokovic was a spent force but he showed great mental strength to win it. This factor will determine who wins at this year’s Olympic Games.”