Monday, August 15, 2011

Mind boggling 'second-best'?

Feeling really bad this morning...barely 2 hours of sleep! Perhaps, thinking too much about Lee Chong Wei's another failed attempt to win the World title. Or maybe the 'bangun sahur' blues? Not really. Blame it on Chong Wei, or wait...maybe I'm the one who should be blamed! My head kept going back and forth to explore my inner beliefs that Chong Wei is Malaysia's best ever singles badminton player. Better than legends of the 50's and 60's like the great Wong Peng Soon, Eddy Choong, Teh Kew San, Tan Aik Huang, Rashid Sidek, etc? Yes Chong Wei is the best. But he has never won "the real big title" as Malaysian press guys would question. Which big one? World championships, Olympics, All England, Asian Games or even the Malaysian/Indonesian Open? What about the world rankings...doesnt it say something? Agreed Chong Wei is still considered second fiddle in world badminton supremacy behind Lin Dan of China. But surely we all saw in the final of the World Championships at Wembley Arena yesterday how tiny and little that separates between Lin Dan and Chong Wei. 23-21 in the deciding rubber could have gone either way. So two meetings this year: LCW beat LD in straights to successfully defend his All England title; and, LD finally so relieved and somewhat lucky to his his fourth world championship title.
People always acknowledged how great Lin Dan is. But how can we deny the greatness of Chong Wei in the way he shouldered the high expectations every time he steps on court. To me, Chong Wei is without a doubt an iconic badminton champion who has taken the highs and lows, especially the sarcastic comparisons since his heavy defeat to Lin Dan in the 2008 Beijing Olympics final, in his stride. In fact, Chong Wei continues to show us that he is a great champion, playing with consistency, continually improving every little details on the analysis that he and Misbun Sidek studied since that bruising Olympics loss. Of course that 8-18 loss-win record he suffered to Lin Dan tells us that the Chinese superstar is extraordinary. But then again, Chong Wei's greatness in terms of work ethics, discipline, sacrifice and respect for the game (no pull-out mockery), should be glorified by our future generation of badminton players. Bring on Lin Dan, see you again at Wembley Arena at 2012 Olympics!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Malaysia's first badminton world champ?

Will Malaysia finally win a World Championship title in badminton this year? Of course they can with our best bet of Lee Chong Wei in singles and Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong in doubles. All said and done, they are also Malaysia's best hope for the country's first gold medal at the Olympics.
Perhaps the golden feeling for Malaysian sports in badminton would be felt this weekend at Wembley Arena, the venue for both this year's World Championships and the London Olympics, next year. Not matter what the critics might say, I truly believe that Kien Keat and Boon Heong has as good a chance as Chong Wei to win the World Championship title on Sunday.
However, studying at the result of KKK-TBH's win (21-6, 20-22, 21-15) over China's Liu Xiolong and Qiu Zihan earlier this morning, our Malaysian pair are still bogged by what the local media would generalise as "inconsistent". It is more than inconsistency, surely there are elements of lacking in concentration (focus), complacency or being plain "fancy", especially on the part of Kien Keat. After winning the opening set 21-6, one would imagine KK and BH's superiority and experience to wrap up the match in straights. But no. They lost the second game, 22-20, to bring us back some of the painful memories of their defeat in other major tournaments that we have watched 'live' on television. KK and BH got their act together to win 21-15 to book a place in the third round against Chen Hung Ling-Lin Yu Lang tomorrow. KK-BH who are the 4-th seed, should have no such problems against the Taiwanese pair and let's hope that they know how to stay calm before stinging an attack to grab the points during crucial rallies.
Chong Wei must also be at his best and not take lightly the aggressive game approach by Korea's Park Sung Hwan to book his place in the quarter-finals. Chong Wei and KK-BH are good enough to reach the final at least. Malaysia's first title at the World Badminton Championships, and the Olympics, are perhaps just around the corner..somewhere at the Wembley Arena!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

First XI calculations for Rajagopal

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have announced 25 players selected for the national squad for two (meaningless?..and now cancelled) friendly matches this month, including one against Oman. Here are among the possibilites and could be's of our national football team following their most dissapointing exit by Singapore in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers last week:

(Including some notes for Datuk K Rajagopal):

Ashaari Shamsuddin: Not sure about his attitude during training sessions but Ashaari's goal-scoring abilities are proven in the Malaysian league or at international level. A beautiful finish against Indonesia in that AFF first leg semi-final at Bukit Jalil, should have been enough to convince us that he is a first XI material. Ashaari looks like an individualist at times, but his goal instincts and finishing technique were clearly missed against Singapore. Never mind his loner kind of attitude during training.

Badrol Bakhtiar: Badrol's considerable work rate and an eye for goal were not really appreciated by Rajagopal. No doubt the Kedah player struggled against the matches against Taiwan after coming off from an injury plagued season. However, Badrol was still good enough to see action against Singapore. On a hind-sight, Badrol is a better choice than fellow SEA Games gold medallist, Fakri Shaarani.

Ismail Faruqi: He was boo-ed by the crowd against Singapore. Faruqi is that kind of player; love him or hate him. I certainly love his courage and confidence in taking on the Singapore players, even in tight situations. A wee bit too much at times; hence the jeer! However, Faruqi can bring a lot of difference to our national team attacking play from mid-field which were at times, too predictable.

Nor Hafiz Zamani Misbah: Zamani has not really proven his real talents with the national team, mainly hampered by injury or the bashings by China, Iran and Uzbekistan when he was a team member in the 2007 Asian Cup. Still Zamani's reading of the game can provide the calming influence which are badly needed to strengthen the defence. Many were convinced by Zamani's ability to hold the defence as proven against Chelsea on July 21.

Farizal Marlias: Goalkeeper on a comeback mission. Also played against Chelsea and marked his return as a national team member with some fine saves to deny the likes of Kalou, Anelka and Drogba. Khairul 'Apek" Fahmi seems to be the number one No 1 at the moment but Farizal is set to replace Sharbini Allawi as Malaysia's number two goalkeeper.

Datuk Rajagopal's line-up for the national team's first XI in the two matches against Singapore were questioned by some die-hard fans. Lets hope Rajagopal really look into various options before deciding to stick only to his 'trusted' players. The national team that did well in the SEA Games and the Asean Championships, need a different dimension now. Also sincerely hope that the so-called football reporters in the country understand the transformation needed to make the Malaysian team stronger and able to play football with a higher level of quality.