KUALA LUMPUR: The country was recently shocked by national badminton ace Lee Chong Wei’s outburst at Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) technical director Morten Frost Hansen.
The world’s number one men’s singles player, in his outburst, said it appeared that Frost, a former badminton superstar himself, could not wait for him to retire.
Suddenly, Lee, who has never shown the slightest sign of indiscipline, is considered a “bad boy” due to his criticism of Frost, who, as was customary, has chosen to be silent.
Has Lee grown big-headed or was he simply asserting his rights?
This is what he has to say for himself:
Q: Some say that as a player, you have to obey the coach’s orders. Did your action show disrespect for the coach?
Lee: I have always respected the coach and all the coaches who have coached me. In my 18 years with BAM, I have never fought or argued with what the coach has to say.
In fact, I accept anyone who is commissioned by BAM to train me. I never make any special requests.
This is not about me going against the head coach. I was just expressing my disappointment at Frost’s actions.
Q: BAM deputy president Norza Zakaria has advised both of you to set aside your egos. Is this a matter of ego?
Lee: I have a lot of respect for the Datuk Seri and often follow his advice. I agree with him; we need to find a solution.
But I need to emphasise once again that this is not about egos; that I am very disappointed with what has happened.
These things should not happen, as we all have the same goals.
Q: Are there people who would consider you as being big-headed in this case?
Lee: Big-headed? If I had wanted to be condescending, I would not have gone for training until BAM changed the rubber mats.
I continued to train as I knew there was an important mission at the All-England tournament, which has important value to me due to its prestige.
I am at the end of my career; I do not need to play hero now. Have you ever seen me get angry like this before? In this matter, I was really challenged by Frost’s attitude.
Q: But why speak out now?
Lee: All this while I have remained patient. My coach Hendrawan also often reminded me to be patient. But Frost’s attitude this time was overboard and truly challenging. (It was like) an attempt to sabotage me…so I lost my temper.
From the demand to change the surface of the court that went unheeded to the statement indicating that he wanted me to retire – it was too much.
Why can’t he wait to see me retire? Train the younger players to get ahead of me; why take the easy way?
What has he done for me? He is not involved in my training.
Since the time I returned from a doping suspension till the time I got the silver medal at the Olympic Games for the third straight time last year – all that was achieved was by my own effort and that of my two coaches, Hendrawan and Tey Seu Bock.
What did he do? Sabotage my chances by not allowing the juniors to spar with me in preparation of (the) Rio (Olympics).
Q: Everyone knows it was Frost who spotted your talent and took you into the badminton academy in Taman Maluri, Cheras back then. People may think you are ungrateful.
Lee: I admit that Frost took me into the academy. I was not alone; there were dozens of other players in the group. That is the extent of his contribution.
At the academy, I was trained by other coaches, not Frost. From there, I went into the junior squad before breaking into the senior one. My talent was honed by Datuk Misbun Sidek, followed by Li Mao, and then again by Misbun.
Under their guidance, I began to create a name for myself and eventually became a formidable player.
I know Frost has all this while taken credit, saying he is the one behind my success. But I left it alone because I know who the real people are behind my success. Maybe he forgot, there were dozens of other players he called up to play in the academy, why didn’t he mention that? I hope this explains the real scenario.
Q: All this while you have remained loyal to BAM, even when Misbun left the national badminton governing body. Why lash out now? Is it simply because of Frost?
Lee: Indeed, I have been faithful to BAM all this while because I have never had any major issue with the association. Without realising it, I have been with the national squad for 18 years.
At the same time, I also want to help the younger players improve by watching me practise or by sparring with me.
What’s more, I know I am at the twilight of my playing career. The current developments make me tired because I want to focus on the game, but there are people who want to sabotage my chances, looking forward to my retirement.
What is my mistake, and has my game deteriorated so badly? Or is he not confident of his own plans? Maybe outsiders do not know, they are happy to see the country’s young players achieve what they consider to be great results in international tournaments.
However, you must be aware that most of these tournaments are “international challenges” of low quality. I don’t think we need to pay a hefty salary to someone for making such plans, local coaches can do it if BAM permits. Just because he’s a foreigner, we see it as success, but if he were a local coach, he would be criticised. I’m sure if local coaches were paid as lucratively and given the trust, they would come up with a much better plan.
Q: You will turn 35 in October. Many people have a cynical view of your ability and certainly there will be those who support Frost.
Lee: I admit age is no longer on my side but I have never used it as an excuse to weaken my spirit. As long as I have the energy, I will play for the country.
Maybe they forget that I am still world number one at this age. No other national player can beat me, and this is not good for the country’s badminton.
Maybe I still don’t have a major title to my name so far, and that is what strengthens my dream to at least win the world title in Glasgow this August, or the gold medal at the Asian Games in Jakarta next year.
This is what motivates me to continue playing. There’s no need to force me to retire because I will know when my time is up, trust me.