Badminton: Meet Dania Who Can Give ‘Uncles’ A Run For Their Money In Badminton
PETALING JAYA: Remember that name Dania Sofea Zaidi. The 13-year-old seems destined to become a darling for badminton fans in the near future.
Dania, a Form Two student at SMK (P) Sultan Ismail, Johor Baru, was monopolizing the limelight in age group tournaments when the Covid-19 pandemic shattered her aspirations.
She is arguably the best under-14 player in the country right now thanks to singles and doubles triumphs at the first stop of the National Junior Tour last year.
If that’s not convincing enough, Dania won the Under-15 title at the Purple League Junior tournament last month.
In 2019, Dania was the undisputed National Under-12 Champion, winning both the National Junior Grand Prix final and the National School Sports Council (MSSM).
“Sofea is definitely the one to beat in her age group in the country right now,” said her father Zaidi Mohamed, teacher at SK Skudai.
“Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, there is no tournament for her to prove her worth in the past year. But she is tied with the top girls under-15 on the National Junior Team.
“She has no problem following 17 or 18 year old players. That’s why it’s a bit difficult to find someone to train with her. We even used “uncles” in their 30s and 40s to help him train.
Zaidi said he was eager to assess his daughter’s performance on the international stage when the Asian Under-15 and Under-17 Championships return to the calendar in the future.
“We are targeting Sofea for the next Asian meet, it will be interesting to see how she stacks up against the best on the continent,” Zaidi said.
“She once won a tournament in Singapore where she beat five Chinese opponents. Although they are club level players, they are all formidable competitors. “
Zaidi said Dania had received an offer to join the Junior National Team but now was not the time to accept the offer.
“We first wanted to oversee its development on our own. She is currently training with experienced coach Albert Lim at Alberts Sports Badminton Academy, ”Zaidi explained.
“She’s been training with him for almost seven years now, and his progress speaks for itself. We will let her eventually join the national team, probably in two years, once she is ready and sufficiently independent. It’s just that we want to prepare it with a solid foundation, mentally and physically.
Zaidi said Dania, who scored 4A and 1B for her UPSR, is known as the ‘cili padi’ to many as she wows the crowd with her skillful skills and moves on the pitch.
“She was jumping, diving and even playing a lot of deceptive shots and it’s always nice to watch.”
Zaidi recalled how Dania was addicted to badminton at the tender age of four.
“I was a former sepak takraw player and noticed how much she loved the sport and was good at hitting the rattan ball. I managed to convince her to play badminton instead and it has certainly been good for her. “At eight, she started winning titles. At 10, she had to play in the boys category because no one can compete with her.
“Sofea is indeed gifted and is intended for badminton. We hope to see her realize her potential to one day become a world champion and an Olympic champion. “