BAM’s trash is China’s treasure – Li Mao, Yoo Yong-sung join China national badminton team

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Li Mao (R) re-join the Chinese Badminton Association as their men’s singles coach. (photo: AFP)
Li Mao (R) re-join the Chinese Badminton Association as their men’s singles coach. (photo: AFP)

Beijing: The Chinese Badminton Association had announced that Li Mao, Yoo Yong-sung will be joining the China national badminton team to become its men’s singles and men’s doubles coach.

Two days ago, the Chinese Badminton Association also appointed former head coach of the Korean team, Kang Kyung-Jin as its new women’s doubles coach.

The president of Chinese Badminton Association, Zhang Jun said that the hiring would allow Chinese team to strategically position itself to get ready for the 2020 Olympics.

“Korea has its unique way of training the doubles players. I hope that they will bring some methodology and training methods of the Korean doubles, combine with our strength to achieve a more impressive results,” said Zhang.

Zhang also has high praise for Li Mao.

“Asking Li Mao to rejoin us would help strengthening the men’s singles department and to further improve our young players’ overall capability,” added Zhang.

Well, fans that are familiar with badminton, should know that Korea’s men doubles legend Park Joo-bong had a stint with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) from 1999 to 2003 as the chief coach. After Park left BAM in 2003, blaming the lack of authority given him to carry out some of his plans, he joined the Japan national badminton team and was able to turn a relatively unknown Japanese team ten years ago to become the current badminton powerhouse.

Coincidentally, both Li Mao and Yoo Yong-sung also had made an unpleasant exits from BAM.

Let’s talk about Li Mao first, Malaysia’s badminton legend Lee Chong Wei started to experience breakthrough in his career when he was groomed under Li Mao. Li who left BAM in 2007, spoke to Malaysian newspaper in 2008 about his unhappiness in BAM.

“It was too complex to coach the Malaysian team at that time. I follow the South Korean team for overseas tournaments and all their players stand united. But I found that Malaysia’s singles and doubles were competing against each other,” said Li Mao.

“They did not support each other. If the singles do well, the doubles department is not happy and vice versa. It was not a condition that I wanted to work in anymore.”

Li Mao was also sore that his wish to train the back-up players was turned down.

“The system in Malaysia is unbelievable. Players from the BJSS (Bukit Jalil Sports School) get promoted into the back-up squad (under Rashid Sidek). But none of the back-up players came to me.”

“In China and South Korea, a chief coach is given the power to choose his back-up players but not here in Malaysia. The back-up is supposed to be the feeder to the national team but I do not get to choose them. What kind of system is this?”

“How can the back-up players improve if they do not train with the best players in the country. I had Chong Wei then and I wanted to produce more top players. But I did not have a pool to work with.”

On the other hand, Yoo Yong-sung who quit BAM in 2012 told Malaysian media the same year that BAM was not telling the truth for saying that he quit his job because he was not given a pay rise after a six-month probation period.

“It has nothing to do with money. I came to Malaysia because of my passion for the game and I wanted an opportunity to build my coaching career. But I was not given a chance to hone my skills here. I brought my family here after all the wonderful promises made to me but nothing much was fulfilled.”

To make matter worst, BAM even refused to extend his working visa, forcing him and his family to leave by the end of May, 2012.

One of Yoo’s task was to improve Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong’s game, but the two-time Olympic silver medalist with Lee Dong-soo in Sydney (2000) and Athens (2004) obviously was deeply hurt by how he and his family were treated in Malaysia.

Long story short, BAM had let many good coaches go, including Rexy Mainaky. Ironically, these coaches who had left BAM went on to serve other countries and help lift those countries’ badminton teams to a higher level, while BAM who keeps aiming or may be dreaming to produce the next Lee Chong Wei is heading downhill fast. I really hope I am wrong, but it would be foolish to believe that BAM could produce an Olympic gold medalist or even a World Champion with its current set up. Good luck boys and girls!

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