JULY 22 — JULY 17, 2014 – Melbourne International Airport
It was supposed to be another trip back to Kuala Lumpur for Melbourne-based Azizulhasni Awang. Yet, flying home last Thursday proved to be an emotional journey after the national cyclist and his teammates learnt about the Malaysian Airlines (MAS) aircraft that was shot down by pro-Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine.
“We were at the MAS lounge when the news broke out. The whole team, including other passengers, were all standing and we were all glued in front of the television,” said Azizulhasni.
“We were shocked!”
A sombre mood quickly enveloped as the cycling team sympathised with the next-of-kin of all 298 on board Flight MH17.
“We feel sad for those on the plane and to the family members. We truly hope they will be able to stay strong,” added Azizulhasni who remains Malaysia’s best bet of nailing a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
JULY 17, 2014 – Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Baljit Singh was eager to redeem his pride as an ankle injury ruled him out of World Cup in The Hague, Holland last month.
Having earned a spot in the national hockey team for the Commonwealth Games, Baljit was all pumped up to showcase his artistry on the turf.
But the Ampang-lad left Kuala Lumpur devastated as his friend’s father was among the passengers on board the plane.
“We were at KLIA when we heard the news. I quickly called my family members just before we boarded the plane and my wife insisted that I called her the minute we landed in Scotland. Everyone was feeling jittery,” Baljit said.
“I feel for my friend Amarpal Singh as his father Karamjit Singh was on the plane. We just cannot predict death.”
JULY 22, 2014
Azizulhasni and Baljit are among the national athletes who will be aiming for pride and glory at the Commonwealth Games which starts tomorrow.
Yet, celebrations to what is dubbed as the second largest multi-sporting event after the Olympics will be subdued as the world weeps for those who perished in the disaster.
While the pain of those who lost their loved ones is felt by many, the sporting world has, as always, provided solace as it pays tribute to all on board the airplane.
Representatives from the participating nations paid their respects to Malaysia’s chef de mission Datuk Ong Poh Eng with a minute’s silence at the daily meeting last Friday.
As 28 Australians were on board the ill-fated plane, the Australian contingent held a minute’s silence to remember the victims during its official reception yesterday. Teams have also promised to fly their flags at half-mast at the Athletes’ Village.
Beyond Glasgow, footballers in Holland donned black armbands in remembrance of the 193 Dutch nationals who lost their lives.
On its website last Friday, the Royal Netherlands FA (KNVB) stated: “KNVB have called on all football clubs to fly the national flag at half-mast this (last) weekend. We also ask that team members wear black armbands and that one minute’s silence be observed before each match; all of this as a mark of respect and sympathy by the Dutch football community for relatives and friends of those who lost their lives in the air disaster over Ukraine on Thursday.”
Fans of English football club Sunderland pushed aside their rivalry with the Magpies after its supporters used crowd-funding site GoFundMe to raise money for two Newcastle fans who were on MH17.
The message on their site read: “We may be Sunderland fans, who traditionally have deep rivalry with Newcastle, but there are things far more important than any football games. The incredibly sad news that has emerged this week about two Newcastle fans who have passed has left us all shocked and deeply saddened. Donating here will help pay for a floral tribute to those fans and to unity between the two clubs. Any extra money will be donated to a charity that has yet to be decided.
Thank you for your time, effort and donations.
RIP to John Alder and Liam Sweeney, who were both far too young.”
Alder, who had only missed one Newcastle game in more than 30 years, and Sweeney were on their way to Kuala Lumpur as they were to catch a flight to New Zealand to watch their club play friendlies against Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix next week.
The monstrous act of downing a plane has scarred those who lost their loved ones, giving up hope on mankind.
Yet, the support by athletes and fans gives humanity hope.
In typical fashion, Azizulhasni and Baljit ended their conversation on the same note, that their participation in the Commonwealth Games is a tribute to all those who lost their lives. They promised to give their best and assured success would be dedicated to the 298 men, women and children perished in the disaster.
To the national contingent in Glasgow, all the best and hopefully we will better the 12 gold-medal haul achieved in New Delhi four years ago.
*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.