KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 19 — It’s confirmed. National men’s singles ace Lee Zii Jia has decided to quit the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) and become a professional player.
In fact, the 2021 All England champion, who is ranked seventh in the world, had tendered his resignation letter to the national badminton governing body on Jan 11.
BAM president Tan Sri Mohamad Norza Zakaria, who confirmed this, said that his deputy, Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos had been given the mandate to announce the decision reached at Monday’s BAM Council meeting at a media conference on Friday (Jan 21).
Mohamad Norza also said that he, BAM secretary-general Kenny Goh, who is also the Coaching and Training Committee chairman, held a series of discussions with the 23-year-old shuttler to persuade him to stay on but to no avail.
“After that, we brought the matter up at the Council meeting because Zii Jia is our main asset. Surely, we do not want to see him throw his future away.
“So, after listening to all parties, the council discussed and made a decision,” said Mohamad Norza, who is also the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president, when met by reporters after the ceremony to handover the Jalur Gemilang to the national contingent leaving for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics today.
Elaborating, Mohamad Norza said he was disappointed with Zii Jia’s decision, having nurtured and helped the shuttler build his badminton career since he was 13 in order to achieve his aim of becoming like national badminton legend Datuk Lee Chong Wei.
“He has just won one All England (title)… he should focus on and remain in BAM. However, he has stated that he is not Chong Wei, can’t stand the pressure, wants to achieve what he wants on his own without (a life) that is constrained and regimented.
“I feel that he has no problems in terms of being in the BAM itself. If we look at Chong Wei, he was with BAM for 19 years. When he (Zii Jia) peaks as a player, BAM is the place (for him) to continue his career until he becomes world number one of a legend one day. But, maybe, he has other priorities.
“If you still have aspirations to realise your dream, you work hard, because it’s our national service. We (BAM) have successfully produced world-class players, that’s a tangible feeling inside us,” he added.
Zii Jia’s performance in 2021 was very inconsistent. He began the year dismally in the first three tournaments in Thailand before creating a sensation when he emerged All England champion in March.
The Kedah-born shuttler then featured in his first Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, where he lost to China’s Chen Long in the last 16.
After guiding the national team to a bronze in the Sudirman Cup mixed team championships, he had to grapple with fatigue and injuries in several tournaments that he competed in, including having to withdraw from the Indonesia Masters in Bali and BWF World Championships in Huelva, Spain.