BAM's big axe draws international scorn

·4-min read
BAM's big axe draws international scorn
BAM's big axe draws international scorn

Badminton ace Lee Zii Jia's international peers are not happy with how he is treated by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM).

Former Thomas Cup winner and current world’s No 22 singles player Hans-Kristian Vittinghus from Denmark described BAM's decision to suspend Lee and Goh Jin Wei from international play as an "outright disaster".

Vittinghus's assessment of Lee and Goh's predicament was that they did nothing wrong and yet they will have to sacrifice two years of their careers at their prime.

National shuttler Goh Jin Wei
National shuttler Goh Jin Wei

"They want to follow their own path. Choose their own coaches, their own training set up, their own tournament schedule, do their own sponsorship deals etc.

"Basically, they want to make a living for themselves playing badminton professionally. Honestly, how is that a crime?

"They haven't done anything whatsoever to discredit the sport nor their country," wrote Vittinghus in his Facebook page.

Vittinghus' Facebook post has received 1,700 comments and 7,400 shares since it was posted 12 hours ago.

Viktor Axelsen, another Dane and current world’s No 1 singles player, described Lee and Goh's predicament as "crazy".

"Imagine yourself being in a position where you don't feel happy in your current workplace and you want something to change. You go express your thoughts to your boss and tell her/him you want to quit and find another place to work.

"However, your boss is not happy about your decision and since they have the power to ban you from applying to jobs in your field, they might go ahead and do so. You just have to wait and see.

"Just listen how crazy this is. This is the year 2022. Is this what we want for our sport?" asked Axelsen on Twitter.

World's No 1 singles player Viktor Axelsen
World's No 1 singles player Viktor Axelsen

Axelsen's tweet last night has received 2,530 retweets and 5,280 likes at the time of writing.

BAM decided not to field Lee and Goh in any international tournament after the duo decided to leave the association and turn professional.

Major tournaments are all organised by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) - the international governing body of the sport recognised by the International Olympics Council.

Kedah-born Lee, 23, is widely regarded as the best Malaysian badminton player at the moment.

Vittinghus mused that Lee and Goh now have three options: Quit badminton, play for a different country or take the matter to court.

"Either way the player is f*****," wrote Vittinghus.

He explained that even if a player moves to another country, it will at least take 12 months before the player is able to play internationally again.

"And it's already crazy you can be forced to move away from your home country, just to follow your dreams because your national body is making full use of power, that there is no fairness in them possessing.

"I'm aware the Malaysian association has nurtured these players since they were young. Paid them, trained them and covered their expenses. But isn't helping young players and growing the sport exactly the task of a national body?

"Why does helping the players come with a restriction of the national body deciding if you can even compete in the sport? That's insane.

"Everyone is losing with these rules. A decision like today is an outright disaster for badminton," he said.

Losing Lee in international badminton, said Vittinghus, was a huge blow globally and in Malaysia.

He described Lee as one of the sport's "most marketable athletes".

"He's well behaved, he's competing for the biggest titles in the world and he's from one of the most important markets for our sport," said Vittinghus.

Vittinghus also criticised the BWF for imposing rules which only allow national bodies to decide who gets to represent their countries.

"Why is the federation deciding who gets to enter 'open' tournaments? Then it's not really an open tournament, is it?

"I really really really do hope BWF soon realises this is not feasible for the future.

"National federations can't hold this kind of power. I know many federations would never use this power to block their own players from competing, but it shouldn't even be a possibility," he said.

A solution, said Vittinghus, was perhaps to expand the realm of competitive badminton.

"Maybe even by creating a new professional tour," he wrote.

Apart from Vinttinghus and Axelson, various other badminton stars, past and present, have come out in Lee and Goh's defence through social media.

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