Is banning Lee Zii Jia ahead of 2024 Olympics in best interest of Malaysia?

BAM 220121

The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) says it wants to protect national interest by not registering Lee Zii Jia and Goh Jin Wei for any tournaments for two years.

It comes after the duo decided to leave the national body to be independent players.

Lee cannot play in any Badminton World Federation (BWF) tournaments until Jan 18, 2024. That could see him missing the 2024 Olympics as the one-year qualifying period starts early next year

Goh, meanwhile, will only be able to return to action on Oct 31, 2023.

Both players declared their desire to continue serving Malaysia as independent players, but BAM decided on this course of action.

The national body is worried it might set a precedent, and other players would walk out if it does not take action now.

That would affect BAM’s finances as sponsors may pull out. That could affect the association’s development plans.

However, by taking such drastic action, BAM risk Malaysia not having a men’s singles representative at the 2024 Olympics.

As it stands, Lee is the highest-ranked Malaysia in the world rankings – at No 7 – while the next highest Malaysia is 34-year-old Liew Daren (No 36).

BAM deputy president Datuk Seri Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos, who chaired a press conference today in his capacity as chairman of BAM’s legal advisory committee, said: “We are not banning the two players. They can still play in tournaments that do not need BAM to register them.

“This is a consequence of them leaving the association. Clause 7 of their contract allows BAM not to register them for tournaments if they leave us.”

Lee, Malaysia’s top-ranked player, stated he wanted to leave BAM as he felt pressured to emulate Datuk Lee Chong Wei and that the lifestyle in the national camp was too regimented.

Jahaberdeen said BAM tried to convince Lee to remain with the national body, and the latter countered by offering new terms.

“He wanted his own coaches, sponsors and to choose the tournaments to play,” he said.

“BAM countered by offering him lucrative terms, but he did not want to budge. We are disappointed to lose him.”

Jahaberdeen said BAM is hopeful Lee and Goh, who has signed with professional club KLRC, would return to the national fold.