Badminton Life

Interview with Razif Sidek

Date: 16/11/2011

Mohamad Razif Mohd Sidek (Nickname: Ajib) (born May 29, 1962 in Banting, Selangor) is a former badminton player from Malaysia and a prominent world-class doubles player during the mid 1980s to early 1990s.

Together, Razif and Jalani were a formidable team. They made the nation sit up and take notice when they won the All England Championships in 1982, ending Malaysia's drought since 1966. That same year, they won the World Open, making them a household name. The brothers attribute their passion and success to their father, Dato' Haji Sidek, who was an avid badminton player himself and encouraged his children's to take up the sport from an early age.

The Sidek brothers (Jalani and Razif) won almost every title on offer during their playing career, including the World Grand Prix, Malaysian Open, SEA Games, Commonwealth Games, China Open and Indonesian Open. The doubles pair also won a bronze at the Barcelona Games in 1992 – Malaysia's first ever Olympic medal.

They introduced the infamous "S" Service, which caused a deceptively erratic shuttle movement, which confounded their opponents and officials alike. The service caused much uproar and was eventually banned by the International Badminton Federation (IBF).

They leave us with a blazing legacy of badminton excellence, and serve as a benchmark for future doubles pairs of the nation.

Razif is the second oldest brother after Misbun amongst the 5 Legendary Sidek brothers (Misbun, Razif, Jalani, Rahman and Rahid) who played badminton for Malaysia and setting a benchmark in Malaysia Badminton.

Razif usually plays doubles with his younger brother, Jalani. Razif won a gold medal for Malaysia at the 1982 Commonwealth Games doubles with Ong Beng Teong and bronze in singles. Razif and Jalani won the All England Championship title in 1982 after beating the Scottish pair, Billy Gilliland and Dan Travers.

He was also a member of the Malaysian squad that won the Thomas Cup for the first time in 25 years, in a 3-1 victory over Indonesia at the National Stadium in 1992. He created history by becoming the first Malaysian athlete to win an Olympic Games medal in Barcelona 1992.

They won a bronze medal for Malaysia after reaching the semi-finals in the men's doubles. It was the first year where badminton was included in the Olympic games.

During his career with Jalani, they become one of the best four doubles pair in the world (Park Joo-bong/Kim Moon-soo, Rudy Gunawan/Eddy Hartono and Tian Bingyi/Li Yongbo) from the 1980s until the early 1990s.

After he retired as a badminton player, he was appointed as the national chief coach of Malaysian national team from 1994 until 1996. To many he is regarded as the living badminton legend.

Honours (with Jalani)

• All England Champion 1982

• Canadian Open Champion 1983, 1984, 1991

• Thailand Open Runner-up 1984

• Malaysian Open Champion 1985, 1987

• World Grand Prix Champion 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991

• Japanese Open Champion 1986

• Taiwan Open Champion 1986, 1989, 1991

• All England Runner-up 1986, 1988

• Malaysian Open Runner-up 1991

• Indonesian Open Champion 1988, 1990

• China Open Champion 1989

• Hong Kong Open Champion 1989

• Thomas Cup Runner-up 1988, 1990 (men team event)

• SEA Games Champion 1989, 1991 (men team event)

• Commonwealth Games Champion 1990

• Germany Open 1990

• World Cup Champion 1990, 1991

• US Open Champion 1991

• Asian Badminton Championships Champion 1990, 1991, 1992

• Thomas Cup Champion 1992 (men's team event)

• Olympic Games 1992 (bronze medal)

1. What age did you start playing?

At the age of 7

2. Was it your intention to be a professional player from the start?

I love the sport because my father plays badminton. He's an avid badminton player himself. When I was a school boy, I played all types of sports beside badminton such as athletics, sepak takraw, ping pong and soccer. I was pretty good at these sports as well, playing at school and state level.

One day, my father told me, he will support me from A to Z in terms of allowance, equipments, training and etc. if I choose badminton as the main sport. If chose other sports like soccer, he wouldn't support me.

So at the age of 9, I entered the Selangor state team, my father bought me full apparel and even build an outdoor badminton court at the back of my house and that's where it began, for me to work towards my goal to bring honours for myself and the country.

3. When did you realize you were good enough to be a world beater?

In 1979 at the age of 17; after finishing my high school. My brother (Jalani Sidek) and I were sent to London, England for 1 month by the BAM for friendly matches. At that time we were in national junior squad for Malaysia and we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel and train abroad.

During our stint in London, we realised our skills were better and we can match with these foreign players but still not so steady yet. We came back from London, we continue polishing on our skills and training hard. Then in 1980 All England Championship, we reached the semi-final.

We were just 18 years old, that's where my brother (Jalani) and I realised we were good enough to be world beater. In 1982, we became champions at the All England.

4. How were you noticed at the national level?

11 to 12 years old I was the national circuit(MSSM) champion, when I was studying at Victoria Institute (V.I) I was the MSSM champion for under 15 and under 18 in both singles and doubles.

5. Which year was you drafted into the national squad?

When I was 14 years, I was already in the national junior squad. At 18 years old, I was drafted to the senior national team along side my brothers Misbun Sidek, Jalani Sidek and Ong Beng Teong. After we were drafted to the national team, there's no more powerful junior batch for some time. (Razif laughs)

6. Have you ever considered making a name in singles?

Yes, before winning the All England in 1982, I was playing in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. I was the second singles player for Malaysia, behind my elder brother Misbun Sidek. I won the bronze medal in the 1982, Commonwealth Games. After winning the 1982 All England, the men's doubles is my first priority.

7. Did any of your batch mates made the same grade as you? If not, what was the reason?

Yes, Ong Beng Teong but there's many who didn't succeed as well. For the reason, probably there's no commitment. To be a champion it's not an easy task, commitment and sacrifices is the main element to become a champion.

During my playing days, there's no girlfriend, no disco, no casino, no movies. These are the sacrifices I made in order to become Thomas Cup Champion, All England Champion, Olympic Medal-list and other numerous Open titles.

8. How many years were you on the scene?

14 years, 1980 to 1994

9. On your playing career which was the highlight of your career?

All England 1982, 1987 World Championship silver medal, 1992 Thomas Cup Champion and 1992 Olympic Games bronze Medal. My brother and I became the first Olympian for Malaysia.

10. Which incident would you consider as a low point of your career?

1990 World Championship lost in quarterfinals against Eddy Gunawan and Rexy Mainaky. That year was the best chance for us to win the world title because we would meet our team mates; Cheah Soon Kit and Soo Beng Kiang in the finals. We had a good chance to beat them as they were our juniors and we know their game fairly well.

11. How would you summarize your career?

Well, successful. I'm happy. I managed to achieved my childhood ambitions; winning the All England and Thomas Cup and a number of Open titles.

12. Do you still play? What other sports other than badminton?

Yes I still do play, I still love the sport. I play bowling these days.

13. What do you think of the new points scoring system?

Now is adaptable, before that when it was first introduced. It's a bit funny as it ends too fast. Now it's getting longer as most players and coaches knows how trained with the new scoring system.

In this 21 point scoring format requires high level of concentration. If I have a choice, I would still prefer the old 15 points scoring format, creative badminton is being played, but now you don't have the chance to do so.

14. Which player you admire at the start, both at the local and the international scene?

Rudy Hartono, he's very amusing to watch. 7 times consecutive All England Champion, at that time there's no World Championship. The All England, is the same status as the World Championship. Lim Swie King for his power game and Christian Hadinata for his good defence, cool, calm and collected style.

15. As a player, what was your strength? Weakness, if any?

Good defence, we are known to have the best defence in the world. As for weaknesses, everyone has to have weaknesses but we utilize our strong defence to cover up the area we are weak at.

We always have trouble playing against the Korean pair of Park Joo Bong and Kim Moon Soo. Their style of game doesn't suit us. It's difficult to penetrate through their game, their drive and arrangement game is superb.

16. Is it important to have a favourite stroke? What was yours then?

Yes of course, everyone must know their favourite and use it as strong point. Even if the player, has a favourite strong he or she still needs to practice on it. My favourite stroke would be defence.

17. Were you good in other sports as well or badminton was just 'it?

I was pretty good at a few sports such as football, sepak takraw, and athletics but don't do any of them now. Nowadays, it'll be just bowling and badminton.

18. Can you name a few international players, current or retired, who you regard as best or famous for a specific technique or an area of skills?

Park Joo Bong, hands down. He has amazing court coverage and recovery. His style of play is superb, control and drive. So far he's the best.

19. Who do you regard as the all time best player?

Park Joo Bong.

20. Who were your coaches during your international days?

Tan Yee Khan(1982), Sofian Abu Bakar, Punch Gunalan (1992, chief coach), James Selvaraj, Phua Ah Hua, Lee Guan Ching from Malaysia. From China ;Yang Yang, Han Jian, Cheng Chaing Jie, Fah Kah Xiang.

21. Can you spell out the difference in coaching styles from China, Malaysia, Denmark and Indonesia? What are their Strengths and Weaknesses?

Back then before 1984, It's totally different. In Malaysia, our training is quite similar to European style. Skills and circuit exercises, then later on Chinese coaches came to Malaysia in the early 80's.

Only then, we started to implement the Chinese style of training, which comprises of footwork, agilities and etc. Indonesia coaching styles are quite similar to China as well. In my personal point of view, I prefer the Chinese style, it's more effective and the Chinese are still the best in the world.

22. Nowadays there are a lot of former players or coaches going to Europe to pursue their badminton career. Is it a good thing for badminton?

It's good for the sport. Last time, it's always China, Indonesia and Malaysia. Now it's more an open competition, you'll see players from European continent making some wave in the badminton world even though there's China.

23. Do good players make good coaches?

Not necessarily, sometimes the player is a good player but he can't talk. He can't project the knowledge and experience.

24. Any piece of advice to aspiring players?

Discipline is the main requirement to becoming a champion, and then comes along dedication and sacrifice. Badminton is an individual sport; it's all up to you to succeed. It's an Olympic sport and an individual event. You can become like celebrity.

25. Any proper diet would you like to recommend for badminton players?

Well, we Malaysians eat a lot of spicy food, this we have to cut down especially before match or tournament or training. There's not really any specific diet, that one has follow. Just make sure we eat moderately, when the stomach says enough then it's enough. Don't eat till you're very full.

26. You are coaching at the moment, what's the difference?

More independent, have to speak on behalf of the player. There's a lot of discussion to solve problems, it's very stressful. These days, with the 21 point scoring format, the training intensity has to be higher.

27. What are the basic requirements to playing good badminton?

Talented, in a sense of picking up fast on what their coach teaches. Interested and willing to learn.

28. What's was training regime like when you were playing? How do you trained up your famous defence?

During my schooling days, at 6.30am I would wake up to do some jogging before school. After school, another 2 hours of court training and 30 minutes physical exercises which comprises jogging and etc.

One of the most important things in badminton is stamina, jogging and playing a lot of badminton is essential to build up stamina. When I was in the national squad, my training regime would be like, 9am to 12noon and then in the evening 4pm to 6pm. Monday to Saturday.

Thursday would be half day and Saturday as well. On Saturday we would do long distance run, 45 minutes. As for defence, to build up these solid defences is hitting against the wall. Skills, mental strength, reflexes and patience will be improved and tested.

It's not easy to beat the wall. It's boring but it's the most effective way to improve your defence. If one can manage to squeeze in at least 20minutes everyday hitting against the wall, he will have a solid defence.

29. When you were playing professionally, have you ever thought of giving up?

Nope, winning and losing is part and parcel of the game. It's our bread and butter. Everybody is looking at us, wanting to beat us. If I give up half way, there's no sportsmanship. We got to keep on fighting and never give up it's like going for war.

30. Who do you think are the current upcoming players in Malaysia? And why?

For the time being, there's not really anybody yet. The back up players are quite equal in standards. There's no one really can stand out to replace Chong Wei. I see these back up players are too dependent on their coaches. These coaches need to give some room for these players to speak out.

Discussion between coaches and players is very important. They need to evaluate their performance at least once every 2 weeks. Some players who left the BAM, and is currently playing in professional clubs talked to me, saying they felt free. In a sense, they felt free to discussion and freedom of suggesting. Another thing, BAM have to stop changing coaches.

31. Do you see any players in the world to take over players like Lin Dan, Peter Gade, Lee Chong Wei and etc.?

Well at the moment, I see Chen Long from China. From the European countries I have not seen anyone yet, but there's this young boy from Denmark, Viktor Axelsen but it's still too early to tell.

32. As a living legend, what is your vision in Malaysia Badminton?

I believe Malaysia can still produce Champions. But I want to see Malaysia to win, gold medals in World Championship and Olympics. We have won bronze and silver in these events numerous times, but it's about time to see the "gold".

No other sports in Malaysia which can win medals unless squash is included as an Olympic sport. We got talent, but it will take a few years to groom these junior. BAM has to concentrate and focus on these juniors; we have singles and doubles World Junior Champions. BAM has exposed the juniors, guide them, and discipline them.

Don't keep them at home! Make sure, they have a coach to give them special attention when these players are promoted to the senior squad. Sparring with the senior players is good, but not has the same coach with the senior players. Don't simply split them up; give them a frame of time to mature, example a 4 years target.

These young players, don't have to win Olympics or World Championship, a Super Series would be a good start. Most importantly, expose these boys to the real world, give them time and be patient. If they are not talented, they wouldn't be World Junior Champions.

33. Is there any ways for BAM to improve their systems for better results on international scene?

There's always a way. In term of the ladies department, BAM has to research why China is doing so well. By physical size also they lost to the China players. We don't have to copy 100 percent, but at least we have a module.

For men's we are quite equal. In my opinion, BAM has to bring in ladies coaches from China. I don't see why they didn't do it till now. It's unnecessary to bring the current appointment of doubles coach. It's better to invest their money on these ladies coaches from China; it'll be more worth it.

34. is planning to start a badminton league. Do you think it will increase the level of the players especially the back up players? And why?

Yes, the standard of Malaysia badminton will be more interesting. More local talent will rise especially there's foreign players and top players will be playing. These young players will learn a lot from them in terms of attitude, skills and tactics. Other clubs players will be motivated to prove to BAM, they can represent their country in other major international tournaments.

35. Do you support the league and why?

I do the support the league, definitely! If Malaysia can get this league through, It'll be a very healthy tournament in term of competitively and publicity.

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