There has been a notable stir among Malaysian badminton fans. Rumour has it that famed national player Lee Zii Jia (李梓嘉) is planning to leave the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM)!
This isn’t the first time the rumour has been heard. However, BAM denied the hearsay last time, claiming Zii Jia had been unaware of such whispers. Fans let it drop then, but the rumour returned on Monday (17th January). This time, Zii Jia refuses to confirm or deny his future status with BAM.
Media outlet Astro Arena inadvertently stumbled upon the issue when they visited the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM). Their journalist Syakirah Zulkfly had initially gone there to confirm BAM’s future goals for tournaments. However, she was told that there were several meetings going on in BAM. One of which was between Zii Jia and BAM.
“This was the first time (Zii Jia) met with BAM since the news broke a few weeks ago that Zii Jia intended to turn professional,” Syakirah stated. She added that there was another meeting scheduled after Zii Jia’s. It was an emergency meeting involving council members from all states. Syakirah felt the meeting would be “about something big”.
Syakirah noted that Zii Jia had left his training for the meeting twice; once alone and the second time with his sister. She added she wasn’t sure if Zii Jia had handed in his resignation. However, things were tense in BAM after the meeting and the Minister of Youth and Sports had also been informed about the issue.
BAM president Norza Zakaria claimed the meeting was to outline Zii Jia’s 2022 season goals. Yet, the world No. 7 singles player has not denied the rumours of him leaving BAM. In an interview on Tuesday (18th January), Zii Jia remained cryptic and mum about his future with BAM.
“I can tell (you) that I don’t think it is my place to comment anything more about this,” the player said. “I feel that (if there’s) any announcement, BAM will announce it.” However, he added that he is still focused on training to “produce good results and make (Malaysia) proud“. Zii Jia also touched on being consistently compared to Dato Lee Chong Wei. “First, I (would like to say), I’m not Dato Lee. What he has achieved and what he has, it’s totally different than what I have,” he stated.
BAM’s Director of Coaching Wong Choong Hann admitted losing Zii Jia would be a big loss to BAM. “We’d be losing our number one (player) and then we would have to rush to train other athletes,” he stated. Although they are training their players to become top-tier shuttlers, there will be a time-constraint. The coach added he had not talked to Zii Jia about his future with BAM.
Fans have been fairly agreeable to rumours of Zii Jia of going solo. Some feel he will be able to perform better on his own while others encourage him to step out from under BAM’s umbrella. However, there are those who feel the change is unnecessary and that Zii Jia needs to focus on bettering himself.
From the looks of things, Zii Jia seems to be leaning towards breaking away from BAM and joining fellow player Goh Jin Wei in becoming a professional player. However, as he recommended, we should wait for BAM to confirm or deny the rumour. For now, his future with BAM will remain up in the air.
Update (Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 5.30pm):
BAM’s President Norza Zakaria has confirmed that Lee Zii Jia has submitted his resignation letter. He will be journeying as a professional player from now on. According to Free Malaysia Today (FMT), Zii Jia decided upon his resignation as he couldn’t stand the pressure. “He said he want to achieve his own dreams according to his own pace,” Norza said to FMT.
Watch his interview here: