PETALING JAYA: Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff admits that the challenge is for them to produce an heir to world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei.
But the outspoken president points out that BAM will not neglect the likes of Chong Wei Feng and Liew Daren while focusing on the younger batch of players coming through the ranks.
Both Wei Feng and Daren were disappointing at the recent Malaysian Open, crashing out in the first round.
“It is BAM’s challenge to improve the quality of the backup squad and to produce world beaters in the future. We will definitely be working hard with the coaches to raise that standard,” said Tengku Mahaleel.
“But that doesn’t mean we will pool all our resources in the younger players and focus less on those who are already in their 20s.
“The emphasis and the progress has to be equal for all ages although we will work harder to improve the juniors for the backup squad by letting them understand the meaning of pressure.”
Tengku Mahaleel also heaped praises on Chong Wei and men’s pair Goh V Shem-Lim Khim Wah, after their success at the Malaysian Open on Sunday.
He also added on behalf of the BAM, that Chong Wei would continue to stay in the team after the latter hinted at a possible earlier retirement at the end of this year in order to spend more time with his family.
“Chong Wei is a unique player ... to be able to achieve what he has done. No Malaysian has ever won 10 Malaysian Open titles and I don’t think anyone else will be able to equal that feat,” said Tengku Mahaleel.
“Right now, I do not know if he really intends to retire early. I hope it is just a wish, and I intend to discuss this with him.
“Personally I hope he stays on forever ... and I believe he can as long as he is in the best physical condition.
“He may even make the 2016 Olympics in Rio, although it may be a bit too much to ask him to bring home the gold. But that’s why we are focusing on developing talents at the grassroots.
“As for V Shem-Khim Wah, the challenge now is for them to break into the world’s top 10 and top five and eventually become world champions.
“They have improved a lot since resuming their partnership two months ago and it makes the national team stronger,” added Tengku Mahaleel.
Meanwhile, BAM also received a shot in the arm after signing a two-year agreement with mobile operators XOX who will become their official mobile technology sponsor.
XOX will support BAM in their development of the sport while the brand’s logo will be featured in the national team’s kit and advertisement boards in selected tournaments.
“Badminton is a sport that unites Malaysians and there are many opportunities for XOX to work closely with BAM and support them for upcoming events that will reach out to the masses, especially the youth,” said XOX group managing director Datuk Eddie Chai.