Coach Liu turns down new contact with table tennis association
By Terrence Voon
THE man who helped deliver Singapore’s first Olympic medal in 48 years is set to quit as coach of the historic women’s national team.
Liu Guodong – whose contract expires at the end of the year – has turned down a new two-year deal offered to him by the Singapore Table Tennis Association (STTA), calling it ‘insulting and insincere’.
Speaking to The Straits Times in a telephone interview yesterday, the 34-year-old insisted that the salary he was being offered did not match his expectations.
Though he declined to reveal details, he said he knew of coaching consultants in Singapore who were paid at least $9,000 a month.
But he maintained that it was not about the money, saying: ‘It’s about recognition and respect for the contributions I have made to Singapore.
‘I have helped to win an Olympic medal for the country, and they can’t even match my salary to that of a consultant.’
Liu claimed that the STTA gave him no room for negotiation when they met last month to discuss the deal.
‘They told me to take it or leave it. I refuse to be bullied by this kind of attitude any more,’ he said.
‘What they have put on the table is simply insulting and insincere. They are forcing me to leave.’
According to Liu, the new deal would also take away many of the decision-making powers that a head coach should have.
‘Under the new contract, the STTA would have overall control over the direction of the team,’ said Liu, who is now on a short break in South Korea.
‘If I don’t have any say, I can’t deliver results. And if I can’t deliver results, there is no point in me staying on.’
Liu’s plans had been in doubt since he led the Republic’s women paddlers to a historic silver medal at the Beijing Olympics in August.
He was held responsible by STTA president Lee Bee Wah for the Gao Ning incident – in which Singapore’s No. 1 men’s player found himself with no coach for his Olympic third-round singles match and crashed out to a lower-ranked Croatian.
Yet, at a press conference just six weeks ago, it was revealed that Liu was negotiating a new deal with STTA. Ms Lee had also said that she was looking forward to working with the head coach until the 2012 London Olympics.
But, with Liu unhappy with the new contract and the STTA apparently unwilling to budge, it signalled the end of the coach’s reign.
According to STTA’s new chief executive Chew Soo Sheng, Liu informed Ms Lee two days ago that he had decided not to renew his contract.
‘We respect coach Liu’s decision and we thank him for his contributions to the sport over the last few years,’ said Chew.
‘We are now working on finding a replacement women’s head coach from China, and have already shortlisted six names for the job.’
Liu, who joined STTA in 2006, will now serve his last day on Dec 31.
He intends to take a break after that, before considering job offers which he said he has received from several countries in Asia, Europe and South America.
‘After spending almost three years in Singapore, I have deep feelings for the country and the players that I have helped to groom, like Feng Tianwei,’ he said.
‘It will be difficult to leave all that behind, but STTA has given me no choice.’