(Photo courtesy of Channel News Asia)
I dunno how to start off this entry in the first place, even though I had this planned for quite some time. No, I was not expecting Uncle Dollah (or “Mama” as we, his nephews and nieces affectionately called him) to leave us all so soon back then, but I had an inkling on what to say as a posthumous tribute to him if the dreaded time for us to part forever were to come. But came it did in the early morning of 14 October 2010, at a time when we, his family, did not expect. Certainly not, when he did not show any signs that his last days were near, as most people who have preceded us would normally project. So it was with complete shock that I woke up yesterday morning to incessant calls by my cousin Ezaad, informing me of the passing of his beloved father.
Mama Dollah was a fighter on the football pitch and a fighter off it. The 375 days of survival from his heart attack which rendered him almost invalid (he was brain dead, but his vital organs were functioning well), was testament to his strong willpower to remain alive, especially so with the hopes and prayers of the whole nation behind him, since that fateful 4th October 2009. Everywhere I went, people never failed to stop asking me about his condition and how he was getting on. I wished I had been able to share better news other than “he’s still in a coma…“, but Almighty Allah knew better than most of us. He left us all to return to the Almighty at around 6am yesterday in the most peaceful way possible in his deep slumber, something that we as a family are at peace at in the knowledge of.
My memories of Mama have always been of happier occasions. He was very generous with his nephews and nieces, always treating us to outings and food. He was always there to lend a listening ear to when we had problems in life / growing up. He was instrumental in letting me into the now-defunct National Stadium to watch our national team play during the good old days of the Malaysia Cup. He was there to comfort me when I ran away from home twice during my teenage years. He was there when I had BGR problems and soaked in the flak I received from my own parents for not concentrating on my studies instead. He was even there to coach me before I went for football trials to represent my secondary school team.
Bearing in mind all his good deeds and playing in honour of his memory, it took me no second invitation to play in the recent Piala Dollah Kassim tournament back in June & July 2010. I know I still owe the readers of my blog an entry about it, but I guess this paragraph and the next would more than make up for it as I doubt I would do it at all, upon hindsight. For those who cared to listen when I was whining about it back then like a broken record on Twitter and Facebook, yes I had grievances towards the organisers and winners of the tournament (PERKAMUS) for apparently using local league standard players in their team, as well as introducing disciplinary rules that perhaps contravened with FIFA standards, which personally I felt undermined the spirit of the competition, that was, to have fun. To be fair to the organisers, I believe they were not the only ones who bent the rules. I’ll leave it to that without going into specific details as the tournament is already long over.
The Mediacorp Suria team which had local entertainment personalities such as Rafaat Hamzah, Fauzie Laily, Shahril Wahid, Syed Azmir, Sahfudin Mahfudz and Faliq (former member of Verbalise Flo) in its ranks…
Other than those personal grievances that I had mentioned earlier, I only have kind words for PERKAMUS and cannot thank them enough in organising a tournament in honour of Mama ever since 2002. Representing the Mediacorp Suria team and playing in the Final with 2000-odd fans cheering us on at the Yishun Stadium, was a memory to savour for amateur players like us who could only dream of playing at stadiums with a sell-out crowd. Personally I felt Mama Dollah was in the stands cheering this nephew of his on and would be proud that even in defeat, we battled on from being two goals down and equalising before succumbing with five minutes left on the clock. The next tournament will definitely be an emotional affair, not only for me, but my family members who would be attending and supporting the event. PERKAMUS has always been actively involved in raising funds for Mama Dollah since the heart attack incident last year, and I hope they would continue to organise the tournament yearly, and not bi-annually, in memory of the great man.
Anyone and everyone who has rubbed shoulders with Mama Dollah before, would never say a bad word about him. His humility, jovial and down-to-earth character endeared him to everyone, even strangers. Even when he was humiliated by some ushers during the official closing ceremony of the National Stadium back in 2007, he chose not to argue, shrugged and told his family to go home. Till today, whoever those ushers are, I hope they would have every ounce of guilt in them for displaying a lack of grace, class and professionalism in disrespecting a national icon. Now that he is gone, I hope they finally know who he is and the joy he used to give to thousands of people in the past, just by watching him play on the hallowed grounds of the National Stadium, which is currently being demolished. What a coincidence then, that the timing of the Grand Old Dame‘s demolition coincided with the passing of one of its greatest entertainers on it.
(Photo courtesy of Hardwarezone Forums)
It was an extremely pleasant surprise to see so many people turned up in droves to visit him yesterday, be it at his home, the Sultan Mosque where the prayers were held and also at the burial grounds of Pusara Abadi. There were about 400-odd people at the mosque itself and it certainly felt like a Friday prayer session. The number of people who turned up and the lavish amount of donations they gave to Mama‘s family showed how much Mama had touched their lives, how much joy he brought to them as a friend and the kind brother he was to so many people, an absolute true measure of the man, who in the words of his close friends in the tribute videos on the primetime news on television, “A Man Who Can Never Truly Be Replaced…“.
He was the rock who held his family together, the one who have always held the fort, and even when he was fighting for his life, he bonded the family together, and I must say the whole family’s been an even tighter unit than before, not that we weren’t in the first place. Tears were generally shed free-flowingly by everyone during the final farewell before the cortege left the home. My cousins Ezaad, Yousoff , Julie and Jid, my sisters Farah and Nurul, even myself, who had remained stoic and composed throughout the event, could not contained ourselves, no matter how much we fought back the tears since morning. Mama brought so much love, care, patience, tolerance and understanding into our family and it is this legacy of his that we intend to continue in bringing up our families in time to come.
(Photo courtesy of bro Amrin Ismail. Thank you for your short tribute in your Facebook bro…)
On behalf of Ezaad and my whole family, I would like to take this opportunity to thank family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, online mates via Twitter & Facebook, strangers, current and former Members of Parliament, current and former national players, those in the local entertainment and football fraternities, for taking the time to visit Mama since his unfortunate incident and during the funeral itself, for the kind words of encouragement, moral support and generous donations rendered. To the Football Association of Singapore, PERKAMUS, Polar Puffs & Cakes Pte Ltd and Singapore Pools Pte Ltd, thank you for your never-ending support in cash and kind. A huge thanks goes out to the good doctors, nurses, neuro-surgeons & specialists who had looked after him throughout his stay at Tan Tock Seng Hospital as well as for making their weekly visits to check if things were ok.
Thank you also to the local media – Mediacorp Suria, Channel News Asia, The Straits Times, The New Paper, Berita Harian, My Paper, Razor TV, Sungguh.com, RIA 89.7FM for your kind coverage and tribute to Mama Dollah all these while and in time to come. Special mention goes out to Warna 94.2FM whom we heard from well-wishers played the song “Dollah Kassim” on its airwaves no less than four times within the space of an hour yesterday!!! Words of thanks and gratitude are not enough to express ourselves to everyone, but we are heartened to know that Mama Dollah will always have a place in the history and annals of this nation, as well as remain in the hearts of those who once got to know the man known as “Gelek King / Raja Gelek“…
(Video courtesy of Mohamed Ezaad Bin Abdullah)