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EXCLUSIVE: FORMER Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Elyas Omar flashed a big smile as he wheeled himself into his office on the eve of his 77th birthday.
Smartly dressed in silky purple batik, the wheelchair-bound Elyas
showed that he has not lost his charm nor his charisma as one of the
most decorated, successful and influential leaders, administrators and
The man, who has been behind the success of many city council
initiatives and even breakthroughs in sports – mainly badminton and
football, was sharp and witty as he recollected all the past memories
over several decades under his leadership.
The twinkle in his eye however, dimmed when he spoke about Malaysia’s future in badminton.
Elyas, who was the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) president
from 1985-1993 and who was one of the key men behind the nation’s
success in winning the Thomas Cup in 1992 at Stadium Negara, said that
drastic changes were needed to take Malaysian badminton out of the
“It has been more than 20 years since we won the Thomas Cup. I think
it is time to rebuild a strong team and stop focusing too much on
individual pursuit and glory,” said Elyas, who turned 77 on Nov 16.
“When I became the president, the players were training at the Police
Depot. They used to walk miles to go for their training. I took the
interest of players to heart. We moved to the Kuala Lumpur training hall
and started to keep them together as a family.
“There were unspoken bonds of friendship in the team. Players should never feel that they are neglected,” said Elyas.
Players, who came through the ranks under his care and guidance were
many, including the Sidek brothers – Misbun, Jalani, Razif, Rashid and
Rahman, Cheah Soon Kit, Soo Beng Kiang and Foo Kok Keong.
“We had more than one singles player and we had several doubles
combinations. There was depth. Now, we are lacking in this area. Look at
how long (world No. 1) Lee Chong Wei has dominated the scene. None are
closely challenging him.
“Our former All England champion Hafiz (Hashim) had the talent but he
lacked motivation. I wish, the BAM then, had done their part by finding
various ways to motivate him. Players sometimes need help to motivate
“In the men’s doubles, I have not seen anyone rising to the occasion
except for Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong. But what has happened to them
lately? In the case of Koo and Tan, one must find out what has gone
“Just imagine if we want a good car to be in optimal condition, we
need to re-look at it regularly. It is important to have a good
mechanic. Sometimes, there will be a need to change the spare parts,
too. If the mechanic knows what has gone wrong but he is not doing
anything about it, the performance of the car will continue to drop. So,
whose fault is it?
“The think-tank in BAM must be able to look into this and find a way to get the best out of their players.”
Elyas also pointed out the importance of building good rapport with the coaches.
He should know.
He is the one who brought some of the best coaches like Fang
Kaixiang, Han Jian and Yang Yang of China to Malaysian shores and they
played a big part in Malaysia’s success at the 1992 Thomas Cup Finals.
“It is important to give them due respect. I am a man full of ideas.
It is important to discuss with them first before pushing through a
plan. It is about teamwork,” he said.
While strengthening the elite programme and improving the quality of
coaching is important, Elyas said that aggressive efforts should be
taken at grassroots level with special focus given to children from
10-14 years old.
“I may have been out of the badminton circle for some time but I do
feel there is a need for BAM to re-organise themselves at the national
and state level. There needs to be focus on development of talents,” he
“There should be a lot of competitions – inter-school, inter-state,
intra-state, age-group .... The way to go is to create a big pool of
players below 14 years old. They should be trained under pressure cooker
conditions from young. If they do this, a player by the age of 18, will
have the boldness, courage and mental strength to face any opponent.”
If there is one thing that Elyas would like to change in BAM it is
the current structure. He would prefer to form one national body with
only one constitution.
“If I had stayed on (after 1993), I would have abolished the current
structure. It is best to have one BAM, one constitution, one plan and
one budget for all. The states should be dissolved but committees should
be set up at every state,” he said.
“Currently, the states have their own constitution and sometimes, we
hear of infighting for power and position. This slows down the
development programme in certain states as people in power are busy
There have been three presidents after Elyas – Datuk Dr Abdullah
Fadzil Che Wan (1993-2000), Datuk Seri Nadzmi Mohd Salleh (2000-2013)
and currently Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff, who was voted in on
Will Malaysia be able to win the Thomas Cup again?
Will Malaysia be able to produce a world champion for the first time
or will we be able to win the Olympic Games gold medal for the first
“The past presidents have not got it right and the new president has
just started his work. He needs time to put his plans into place.
“I believe that if he gets it right by giving emphasis to the
mobilisation of talents at all levels, there is a chance for Malaysian
badminton to get back on track,” said Elyas, who was the chef de mission
when Malaysia won the first medal at the Olympic Games in Barcelona
through the Sidek pair – Razif-Jalani.