MERITOCRACY is a dying word in Malaysian sports. And it will be dead and buried as long as mediocrity is tolerated.
For how else can one describe the situation with Malaysia’s top men’s doubles pair of Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong.
Is there hope for the duo – or Malaysian badminton, in general.
Based on their performances in the Sudirman Cup, Kien Keat-Boong Heong are definitely living on borrowed time.
Their uninspiring performance against Taiwan’s unheralded pair of Lee Sheng-mu-Tsai Chia-hsin clearly sums up their slow and steady fall from grace.
Technically, the duo still have three months to salvage whatever pride there is left and restore the fans’ faith and interest in them.
To do that, the pair will need to work their socks off in the next 90 days and finish their career on a high at the World Championships in August in Guangzhou.
Three months is all it takes. Three months of sacrifices. Three months of self-disciplined lifestyle. Three months of blood, sweat and tears. Three months of sheer obedience to their coaches.
There’s no guarantee they will succeed. But if they can regain the kind of form that struck fear in the hearts of their opponents, at least they can regain their pride and earn the respect of everyone.
But to be honest, whatever happens – whether they finish on a high or on a low – the reality is that one cannot see Kien Keat-Boon Heong going beyond the World Championships.
If they produce decent performances in Guangzhou, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) can start thinking of finding new partners for them.
If they fall flat again, it should mark the end of their seven-year roller-coaster ride.
So, what has really happened to this pair, who once ruled the world with their breathtaking exploits and performances, since winning the 2006 Asian Games gold medal in Doha?
Everyone knows that the former All-England champions had some misunderstandings in the past. But, two days ago, former international Razif Sidek revealed a darker side to their decline.
Indiscipline and unhealthy lifestyle – like late nights and gambling – were among the factors associated to their decline.
But what irked Razif the most was that BAM were aware of the situation but did not crack the whip until it was too late.
Coaches’ reports of their indiscipline behaviour were brought up at BAM meetings but their so-called “godfathers” were always there to protect them, thus resulting in them being let off the hook time and again.
So, is there a future for Malaysian badminton?
Yes, but only if BAM are serious in stamping out the bad habits – double standards and favouritism. BAM must opt to change and the change should start right from the top.
There should only be one set of rule for all the players – irrespective of whether they are juniors or seniors. Break it, and you pay the price.
The coaches should also be fair and bold enough to make a stand and speak up.
BAM need to take a long and hard look at themselves too, for having had a hand in creating this malady.
Remember the incident where a Datuk’s son made it to the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) although he did not qualify on merit?
That is as clear a case as you will ever get about mediocrity being rewarded instead of meritocracy.
BAM will have a new president when they hold their annual general meeting (AGM) in July as president Datuk Seri Nadzmi Mohd Salleh is not standing for re-election.
For the sake of badminton, whoever succeeds him, please do the right thing.
Otherwise, badminton too will suffer a slow and steady death once Lee Chong Wei hangs up his racquet.