Never question his nationalism, but for Indonesia’s badminton coach, Hendrawan, enough is enough. Money, challenges and disappointments were the key factors leading to his recent resignation, from his position as the national coach for men’s singles at the Indonesian Badminton Center in Cipayung, East Jakarta.
Hendrawan’s decision was not without strong opposition. His fans immediately sent responses to his Facebook account. Most of them asked if he had lost his "love for Indonesia". Others wished him good luck in his new job training Malaysia’s young players for the 2012 Olympics.
"Life is about making choices. But many people still can’t understand why I have chosen to move to Malaysia," Hendrawan said Wednesday.
Hendrawan had only recently received his Republic of Indonesia Citizenship Certificate (SBKRI) in 2002, after then President Megawati Soekarnoputri intervened personally and ordered officials at the Justice and Human Rights Ministry push his paperwork forward. He had presented Indonesia with a silver medal at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games, a silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, a 2001 World Champion title and Thomas Cup men’s team badminton championship titles three times.
Hence, Hendrawan wrote in his Facebook account, "Never question my nationalism."
Moving to Malaysia was not an easy decision for him to make. Hendrawan had asked for advice from his seniors – ranging from one of the country’s badminton legends, Tan Joe Hock, motivator Andrie Wongso and his former physical trainer, Paulus Pasurney – to friends and some journalists.
The offer had come in 2005 with Malaysia setting its hopes on the 2012 London Olympics. The neighboring country has so far earned silver medals in the quadrennial event – in 1996 in the men’s doubles with Yap Kim Hock and Cheah Soon Kit, and in 2008 in the men’s singles with Lee Chong Wei.
But Hendrawan, who became a women’s singles coach in 2004, before switching to the men’s singles in 2008, had turned down the offer because he had already promised himself to help his prot*g*es earn a medal at the Olympics. And he did help Maria Kristin Yulianti spoil China’s ambition to clean sweep all medals in the women’s singles in Beijing.
The father of two – an 8-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son – argues he needs to think about his childrens’ future.
"Maybe my salary *as an Indonesian coach* was enough, but there are other factors that we need to think about," he said, pointing to the case of former national coach Indra Gunawan who has recently been hospitalized with cancer.
"Athletes and coaches don’t get health insurance, and we don’t get pensions. Those are among my considerations for taking this job," he said.
Although he refused to reveal the figure offered by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM), for Hendrawan his professionalism matters most. Being a coach is just like any other job, he said, and there is nothing wrong with coaching another country’s team.
Previously, we have seen this happen in soccer. England – despite its flops at World Championships in past decades – hired Swede Sven Goran Eriksson and, more recently, Fabio Capello of Italy, hoping for a repeat of its 1966 victory. Similarly, Dutch coach Guus Hiddink helped South Korea reach the 2002 World Champions semifinals, and then Australia in2005-2006 for the World Cup (he has also coached Real Madrid, Russia and Chelsea, among others).
Hendrawan refused to talk further about his disappointment at the national training camp, saying "the chapter was closed" and it was time to move on. He had reviewed Malaysia’s team performance at the recently concluded Sudirman Cup in Guangzhou, China, where they managed to get through to the semifinals for the first time since the biennial first event took place in 1989.
"Malaysia could perform better. They should dream big, and their players need to work hard to achieve that dream," he said. Whether he will be successful in helping Malaysia achieve this dream, "only time will tell" Hendrawan said.
May 27 was Hendrawan’s last day at the Indonesian training center. He will begin his new life as a coach for Malaysian junior players on July 1, teaming up with old friend Rexy Mainaky, who is in charge of training Malaysia’s men’s doubles.
His departure has raised concerns among badminton lovers in Indonesia, fearing that Hendrawan’s "Midas touch" will help raise the bar for Malaysian shuttlers. But for him, it is time for PBSI to start thinking about hiring the best coaches and improving their talent scouting system.
"PBSI needs to improve. We can’t just rely on the existing talent. I think I have done enough in helping *Indonesia*s* shuttlers achieve much better than they did before I joined," he said.
In the end, Hendrawan hopes to see Indonesia’s badminton team advance on the international stage, even without him as a coach.