Datuk Lee Chong Wei has expressed his disappointment at the state of Malaysian badminton after the current best national shuttler has decided to quit the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM)
Speaking to New Straits Times' sports section, Timesport, the national badminton legend said he is extremely saddened by the news of Lee Zii Jia's resignation from the national badminton squad.
The former world number one shuttler revealed that Zii Jia had met him on 11 January to seek his advice prior to the latter's resignation from BAM.
"I told Zii Jia that I cannot take sides. My only advice to him was to think carefully before making a decision because this involves his future," Chong Wei said.
"As a former player who spent two decades with the national side, I dare say that nobody is perfect."
Chong Wei continued that BAM can never be perfect, so was he as a player.
He related that misunderstandings and conflicts are bound to happen between the two parties.
However, as someone who Zii Jia considers as an elder brother, he said, "[Everything] can be solved with proper discussion."
"Today I woke up to sad news in the media. It pains me to see the state of Malaysian badminton. How did it get here?"
"Today, I am the person I am because of BAM... and that is what I tell the younger players. Don't compare yourselves to foreigners, our culture is different."
"At BAM, you have the best support service, state-of-the-art facilities, and quality training programmes and sparring partners. It's not so easy outside," said the 40-year-old national hero who retired in 2019 after battling nose cancer.
"Yes, Zii Jia did mention to me that he felt pressured when people compared him to me," Chong Wei told Timesport
"Of course, Zii Jia is not me but I told him that pressure is something that will always be there. If you want to be the world's best, there will be pressure."
"At the end of the day, nobody can make this decision for Zii Jia but himself. What BAM decides to do, we have to wait and see."
The triple silver Olympic Games medalist told Bernama that he did not tell Zii Jia to quit or stay with BAM as he did not want to influence the 23-year-old's decision.
Chong Wei said he hopes the crisis between BAM and the All England Open champion can be resolved quickly, as it has become an international issue within the badminton scene.
He said nothing good would come of the issue if it is prolonged, adding that it would instead paint a negative picture of BAM among foreign badminton fans.
"Not just in Malaysia, the whole world knows about this (Zii Jia quitting BAM). I feel that this is not very good for the national badminton squad. I hope this matter can be resolved swiftly and focus (sic) returns to badminton. Don't let it become a big issue," he said yesterday, 20 January, reported Bernama.
On Wednesday, 19 January, BAM president Tan Sri Mohamad Norza Zakaria confirmed that Zii Jia had decided to quit the national governing body to become an independent player
Zii Jia tendered his resignation letter on 11 January.
Mohamad Norza revealed that Zii Jia wanted to quit the association because he is not Chong Wei and that he cannot stand the pressure, among other reasons.
He reportedly wants to achieve what he wants in his own space and without constrain and regimentation, according to Bernama.
As an independent player, the 24-year-old has to fund his own training, trips to competitions, look for his own coach and treatment, and more.
Additionally, BAM has the power to bar independent players from representing Malaysia in international tournaments, reported The Star.
Former national shuttler Datuk Rashid Sidek said BAM should take a strong stance against Zii Jia for leaving the association after it had trained him to become a world-class player.
He said Zii Jia should be taught a lesson to prevent an exodus of players in the future.
On 18 January, Zii Jia told reporters that if he is considered a "rebel child", he will no longer train in the national facility centre: