By RAJES PAUL
KUALA LUMPUR: Badminton may not enjoy the privilege as the sports to receive the most funding from the government if they continue to fall short of expectations in major tournaments.
The National Sports Council (NSC) deputy director, Datuk Zolkples Embong, said yesterday that they deemed the performance of the national team in the just concluded World Championships in Madrid as a major failure.
On the directive of the Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, Zolkples held a special press conference at Bukit Jalil yesterday to state that the team had failed to justify the money – almost half a million ringgit – spent on them in Madrid.
And to get them back on the right track for the Doha Asian Games scheduled for Dec 1-15, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) had been given one week to explain the failure in Madrid.
“We, the NSC and the Sports Minister are truly disappointed with the badminton team. Their recent failures at the World Championships does not reflect well on what we can expect from them in the Asian Games,” said Zolkples, who is also the chairman of the committee who oversee all the NSC’s programmes.
“We have earmarked them to win gold medals at the Doha Games. We are now very concerned and want answers from the BAM within a week.
“The NSC have provided everything for them and given them all forms of support. They get our priority. In fact, they enjoy our biggest funding. For the World Championships alone, the budget was RM423,389.98 to be exact.
“They (the BAM) said that they had the best prepared team but, except for the mixed doubles, none made it to the semi-finals. (Lee) Chong Wei was the men’s singles top seed and he failed to reach the final. And there were empty promises in the men’s doubles.”
Zolkples said that the NSC would not tolerate excuses for the failures.
“We have spent so much on them. But the players and coaches talked about dubious line calls and umpires favouring Europeans. But look at China, they still went home with four world titles,” he said.
The NSC also said that the team’s early departure for Madrid and the large number of officials incurred them additional cost.
“Why send sparring players like James (Chua)? His career is as good as over. We did not know about him because he is not under the elite programme. If they had wanted to take sparring players, they should look at the juniors,” said Zolkples.
“Does a nutritionist need to be there? In fact, the players could have used the excellent facility that we have here (at Bukit Jalil) for training instead of going there early. They would have the option to spar with more players here and it would have saved us a lot of money.”
He also questioned the presence of the assistant singles and doubles coaches, Wong Tat Meng and Pang Cheh Chang, and assistant manager Lim Kok Wye.
On why the NSC had in the first place approved the team’s early familiarisation stint and the large contingent to Madrid, Zolkples said that they had faith in badminton.
“I had two meetings with Ganga (Rao, the BAM secretary). I told him to reduce the number of officials because the cost was too high. But I was given an assurance that they had the best-prepared team and we accommodated them. Maybe, we are looking at all these details now because we are upset over the team’s performance.”
Zolkples, however, said that they would await an official report from BAM.
“For now, there will not be any drastic decisions because the Asian Games are just two months away,” he said.
“But badminton need to remember that they will be treated just like the other sports if they fail to live up to the high expectations we have placed on them at the Games.”
The NSC will conduct a review on every sport under their payroll after the Asiad.