IN the aftermath of yet another Thomas Cup debacle, what is left of Malaysia’s badminton, the only sports of Olympics status that we can claim to be of world ranking?
In the 2012 Thomas Cup in Wuhan, China, Malaysia did not even make it to the semi-finals. In the history of this tournament that’s the symbol of world team badminton supremacy, only three countries have won it – China, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Perhaps the only "consolation" as we see our badminton fast fading into international obscurity is that Indonesia, with 10 times our population, also failed miserably.
No one is angrier at this state of affairs than Tan Sri Elyas Omar, the man who was president of the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) when we last won the Thomas Cup 20 years ago.
He was emotional when I chatted with him over the weekend.
"The Thomas Cup debacle is the worst that has happened to Malaysia’s ‘maruah’ (honour)," he said. And in a surprise outburst, he told me: "(Datuk Seri) Nadzmi should step down right now. I shall be grateful if you could pass this message to him. Please do me this favour."
This was his plea to BAM president Datuk Seri Nadzmi Salleh, who upon getting the message texted back: "I noted his views. No doubt, Tan Sri Elyas was capable and achieved a lot during his time."
Elyas went on: "Enough damage has been done to Malaysian badminton. BAM is lost in the wilderness as the leadership is weak. Badminton needs a leader to pull us out of this."
In his response, Nadzmi disclosed that in the last two BAM annual general meetings, he had declined to stay on as president but the association’s council persuaded him to continue.
"Finally, I suggested for two deputy presidents for a smooth transition when I step down," said Nadzmi.
In defending his management team, Nadzmi said they have no other interests than to promote badminton and the biggest challenge is how to stay ahead in the sport and win more prestigious tournaments on a sustainable basis.
Whoever can do this must also command huge finances because the world is the playground. He asked: "Do we have the person and whether one person alone can make a difference? That’s my honest opinion."
Elyas on the other hand likens the BAM presidency to the leader of a nation. "There’s only one prime minister to lead the country and whoever is in the saddle is responsible to mobilise the nation or the entire group of followers to achieve success."
He spoke of his own formula for success. "When I was BAM president, I did all the thinking and strategising, all the efforts of financing, all the motivation of the players all by myself," said Elyas, who was formerly the sports commissioner and before that, Kuala Lumpur mayor.
Elyas was also credited for leading the Malaysian team which successfully lobbied for Kuala Lumpur as the hosts of the 1998 Commonwealth Games, the biggest sporting event ever to be held in Malaysia.
Back to the Thomas Cup, what is obvious is that Nadzmi’s idea of having four different coaches for the national team, instead of just one head coach as adopted by other countries, is seen as the key reason for our failure.
The so-called four-member "high performance" coaching team is simply not working and should be scrapped immediately. It’s all the more absurd when you consider the dismal performance of our doubles pairs on the world stage.
Why does BAM want to be different when China, South Korea, Japan and Denmark have it the old-fashioned way of having one chief coach who calls all the shots.
Razif Sidek, a member of our 1992 Thomas Cup winning team and one of the world’s best doubles players in his heyday, has also joined Elyas in calling for Nadzmi to quit.
He said Nadzmi cannot continue to give the "same old excuses" for Malaysia’s Thomas Cup failures. Apart from Nadzmi, several other top officials who have overstayed, some even longer than him in the comfort of BAM, should also go.
I let Elyas conclude this column: "We’ve no future in football, athletics and soon badminton."