Zii Jia to get paid for wearing national shirt [NSTTV]

KUALA LUMPUR: In an unprecedented move, Lee Zii Jia will become the first independent player to receive monetary compensation for wearing the national shirt in a major championship.

In the case of the world No. 11, he will receive an undisclosed fee for every match he plays at the Thomas Cup Finals in Chengdu from April 28 to May 5.

Michelle Chai, BAM's head of administration, revealed that discussions with Team LZJ took up some time, leading to the delay in including Zii Jia in the squad.

Zii Jia is sponsored by Victor, a direct competitor of Yonex, one of the major sponsors of the national team.

Michelle added that the national body had no option but to venture into "uncharted territories" to assemble the strongest squad to try to reclaim the Thomas Cup, which has eluded the nation for 32 years.

"It wasn't so much a question of Zii Jia playing for the country or not, but rather about the compensation amount necessary for him to wear the national shirt. The national shirt has our commercial partners, and since he's not part of the BAM setup benefiting from the ecosystem. I think it's fair for him," Michelle explained.

"Zii Jia has benefited before, but now that he's not part of it, we had to take some time to come to an agreement regarding the amount, which was acceptable for both parties.

"It's something new for us too, we are facing an unprecedented situation, it's slightly different from (Lee) Chong Wei's although he was with Yonex at a time when the national team was being sponsored by Victor.

"Chong Wei was still our player at the time. Also, for Zii Jia, he's the first player to leave BAM at his peak.

"Our aim is to win the Thomas Cup. we are going to the Finals not just to make it through the group stage. After 32 years, the nation hopes to reclaim the Thomas Cup. As Tan Sri (Norza Zakaria), the BAM president, has made clear, we need all our best players on the team.

"As the governing body, our role is to consider the bigger picture. Even if it means venturing into uncharted territories, we must remain open. We cannot be stuck in the past because sports have evolved.

When asked if this was a situation experienced by other national teams, Michelle said she wasn't aware of any instances, but noted that in football, it's a common practice.

"I'm not sure about badminton, but in football, it's quite normal. For example, (French star Kylian) Mbappe, when he plays for France If France wants him to appear in a French national jersey for commercial work, then it's a separate deal," explained Michelle.

"In football, it's all about money, which is why FIFA pays players to participate in major events. I believe sooner or later, all sports will head in that direction."

Michelle noted that this has taught BAM a significant lesson regarding the need for major improvement in the men's singles department, so they won't have to rely solely on individual players.

"It puts the challenge on our men's singles department to step up and produce players of equal calibre so that we do not become overly dependent on a single player," said Michelle.

"In any industry, a monopoly is not healthy. It's always about having choices. This applies to consumers as well because, like in any industry, it's about supply and demand."

BAM also granted Zii Jia his request to bring along his coach, Wong Tat Meng, as well as his masseur, and strength and conditioning coach along for the Thomas Cup Finals.

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