man whom Gopi Chand thanked with all his heart
after winning the All England Championship was
Syed Mohammed Arif, Chief National Coach, Badminton.
Yes, that is the respect SM Arif commands from Gopi Chand.
Arif was coaching Gopi since 1985 when Gopi was just a
11 year old boy. "Gopi first came to me in 1985
and right from his child hood Gopi had some qualities
which are essential for a player to develop into a world
beater," says Arif.
With a single passion towards the game, Arif has been
coaching players since 1972 and nurturing them into top
ones. Today he comes to the Lal Bahadur Stadium
everyday to coach the players. Hyderabad-best.com
caught up with the 58-year-old super coach for an exclusive
interview where he dwells about the badminton scenario
and Gopi Chand's success.
You've been quite instrumental in making Gopi a top
player. How did you mould him into a successful player?
Since his childhood, Gopi was a different player. Generally
among children there is a tendency that when they get
tired during play they stop, but Gopi Chand was a completely
different player. He trained himself very hard and used
to continuously play even when he got tired. His style
of play was aggressive and he used to jump and smash the
cork. In India few players jump and play. His game was
a fast paced one. These are generally considered as modern
techniques of the game and he wants to go with it. And
right from the beginning I moulded him on these lines.
As a coach you've been associated with Gopi Chand right
from his child hood. Can you just tell us how did Gopi
Chand evolve into a top player in badminton?
first came to me in 1985 and right from his child hood
Gopi had some qualities which are essential for a player
to develop into a world beater. One of his weak points
was that he used to get jittery when he used to lose the
game. I feel that one who doesn't take defeat very seriously
will not evolve into a top class player. With his hard
work, he became a top junior level player in 1991 only.
At that time he was fortunate to have played with some
international players like Manoj Kumar, Praveen Kumar,
and Sunil Anirudh and he got good exposure to the
game. During that period a Chinese coach was appointed
to coach the Indian players but Gopi was not selected
by the Chinese coach. At the same time the Malaysian team
was touring India for a three test series. In the second
match held in Hyderabad, Badminton Association of India
(BAI) agreed to select him on my recommendation. And
to the surprise of everyone he won the match very easily.
Later he won some great matches and in one of the matches
in the European circuit, he not only qualified in the
first round but also defeated Johanson Thomas -
the world number 23 and the tallest badminton player in
the world. But in 1994 he was injured during the national
games held in Pune and this was the most critical
period of his life. He was in the bed for nearly six months
but came back superbly and beat Deepankar Bhattachargee
15-0, 15-2 in his first come back match. This shows his
strength, determination and commitment to the game.
Have you ever felt during your coaching days that he
would be such a top player?
Way back in 1987 I predicted that one day he would be
a world champion. He had some rare qualities that are
essential for a player to become world-class. His hard
work, game style and determination were quite fascinating.
In 1996 I realized that if he remains in Hyderabad he
would not get many chances. I felt that he needs international
exposure. Therefore I advised him to go to the BPL
Academy run by Prakash Padukone in Bangalore.
There was no sponsorship problem in Bangalore and I felt
he has to play 10-15 tournaments in a year to come up
to the level of a world class player. After that he participated
in a lot of tournaments overseas and played tremendously.
are the key elements that make Gopi a successful player?
Discipline, dedication, and determination. These are the
three most important things that make Gopi a successful
player. The way he came back from injury in 1994 was really
commendable. Players try to over work to recuperate themselves
and ultimately lose their physical strength, but Gopi
practiced according to the situation and came back to
his form slowly.
What was your reaction when Gopi won the All England
( face lights up) It was a great day for me. He
made the whole country proud and I hope that he will win
more tournaments for the country in the future.
You said recently that the coming two years would be
quite crucial for Gopi Chand. In what way are they going
to be crucial?
Badminton is one of the toughest games in the world. If
a player reaches the top position, he generally tries
to overdo the things by working very hard which could
become detrimental for a player. Now Gopi has reached
the top level and the training has to be optimum. The
other point is that he is already 27 and after three years
he will be in his thirties. So I believe these two years
will be quite crucial for him.
Why are we not able to produce many Gopi Chands in
India? What's wrong with our sports policy?
The socio-economic pattern of the society. We give more
importance to education. In countries like China, Korea,
Malaysia, sports are given much importance and they
produce world-class players. If we want to produce good
sports persons our attitude towards sports has to change.
How is the position of badminton in India?
now we are pretty well placed in the international scenario.
For the past four years our performance has gone up. Some
of the important tournaments, which we won in recent years
proves this. In the 1998-99 Common Wealth games
we won 4 medals. In Sudirman cup we won 3 doubles
and 2 singles titles. We could have won some more titles
there but the format of play was not suitable to us. Our
world ranking has also improved; presently we are placed
at 16 in the world rankings. Siddharth Jain and Shyam
Gupta have both won the French titles. Surely
we are improving in the badminton arena.
How do you think the government can help to encourage
The most important thing is that the government should
provide adequate shuttles at subsidised rates. And also
we should have some major sponsor for the sport to lean
back on. If you notice, all over the globe, sports are
very dependent on sponsorship. If we can get more sponsorship,
it will be really good for Indian badminton.
Who are some of the promising players in India today
according to you?
There are quite a few players who can be an asset to Indian
badminton in the future. Siddharth Jain, Abhin Shyam
Gupta, Nikhil Kanitkar, Abhishek Bakshi, Anup Sridhar,
Chetan Anand, SPS Krishna, Jwala and Shruthi
are some of them.
How is the badminton scenario in AP at present?
We are at the top in the country at present. Jwala and
Shruthi reached the quarter finals in Junior World
championship doubles held in China in November
last year. In March 2001 they reached the German Open
Quarter-finals in doubles.
are the steps that you suggest to make badminton popular
The basic thing we need at present is good infrastructure.
For that there should be at least four courts in the city
Are there any sponsors for the current players from
We don't have many sponsors at present. But I am extremely
thankful to Kailash Charan of Srinath Jewellers
for sponsoring Jwala who is an upcoming player from
AP. Indian Badminton Federation (IBF) is already
sponsoring Lakshmi and Sports Authority of Andhra
Pradesh (SAAP) is planning to provide four lakh rupees
for the sponsorship of the players.
The AP government recently said that they would like
to establish a Badminton academy in the state. How do
you react to it?
It will be really good. But the academy should have a
sound infrastructure and be equipped with proper equipment.
Apart from this we also need sports medicine experts,
psychologists, physiotherapists and good coaches.