A ban imposed by Malaysia’s Badminton Association earlier this month on international star shuttler Lee Zii Jia has been lifted.
On Tuesday, Lee reached an agreement with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) that would potentially allow him to compete in international tournaments as an independent, reported Agence France-Presse.
Lee, the world No. 7 player, was penalized by BAM after he quit the Malaysian national team earlier this month. Lee reportedly decided to part ways with BAM after performing poorly at the Tokyo Olympics and other tournaments.
Former national No. 1 women's singles player Goh Jin Wei, who resigned from BAM in August, was also slapped with a two-year ban. She is now waiting for the results of the appeal she filed on Monday, reported The Star.
Under the ban, the athletes are restricted from playing in all tournaments sanctioned by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) for two years.
Among those who responded negatively to the ban was world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen, who took to Twitter to berate BAM’s ban in a lengthy post: "Just listen to how crazy this is. This is year 2022. Is this what we want for our sport?"
Imagine yourself being in a position where you don’t feel happy in your current workplace and you want something to change. You go express your thoughts to your boss and tell her/him you want to quit and find another place to work. 1/2
— Viktor Axelsen (@ViktorAxelsen) January 21, 2022
An online petition urging BAM to not ban Lee and Goh has received over 120,000 signatures.
“We (Malaysians) are angry at this as we believe that this will ruin their careers,” the petitioners noted. “This petition is to offer support to the two athletes as well as to show BAM that Malaysians and badminton fans/athletes around the world are against their decision.”
After filing an appeal against the ban on Monday, Lee confirmed the next day that BAM President Norza Zakaria gave him his “blessings” to go independent following his meeting with the sports body, according to AFP.
The terms of the agreement are set to be made public next week, according to BAM Deputy President Jaharbedeen Mohamed Yunoos.
Lee expressed his excitement about the development on Instagram: “I am happy that we are now resolving this issue. I hope this conclusion unites us as Malaysians and badminton fans.”
View this post on Instagram
Norza said that BAM will provide support to Lee, noting that the “interest of the nation is paramount. Our goal is a gold at the Paris Olympics [in 2024].”
Lee rose up in global rankings in recent years due to his phenomenal performance in the international badminton tournaments. His victory at the prestigious All England Open last year was among his career highlights.
Featured Image via Astro Arena (left), BWF TV (right)
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