FROM day one of his football career, Nazrul Ahmad Nazari knew that his most ardent supporter would be in the stands, cheering him on.
And he believes that that will not change, even with his father's death.
"Home or away, he will always be there with me," the player, a member of the Singapore Under- 23 side challenging for glory at the SEA Games, said of his father Ahmad Nazari Ashar, who died in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday morning of a severe, tuberculosis- related infection.
Speaking to The Straits Times on Friday evening at the void deck of his family's Jurong East home, Nazrul recounted the emotional roller-coaster ride which began in Myanmar.
The winger was told by family members that his father had been admitted to hospital after collapsing on Saturday.
"I just panicked," recalled the 22-year-old.
He left the team hotel early on Tuesday morning to join his family in the Malaysian capital, where Ahmad Nazari had been working for the past two months as a communication and interior designer with furniture store Ikea.
"All night long, I couldn't sleep," Nazrul said of the 12-hour journey. "I was just trying to calm myself down and get updates on my dad's condition."
He was, however, thankful that he could reach in time to bid his ailing father a final farewell.
"He could hear what we were saying," Nazrul said. "He could understand what was happening and there were tears rolling down his cheeks; he just wasn't able to say anything. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do."
Ahmad Nazari died aged 49 on Thursday morning, leaving behind a wife and three children.
Just hours after laying his father to rest, Nazrul had already accepted his added responsibilities as the oldest child of the family.
"I have to be strong for my mum and my younger brother and sister," he said. "My relatives used to say that I look a lot like him; now it's time for me to take on his role as well."
That said, he also plans to aid the Young Lions in their bid for SEA Games gold - albeit after their group games end Sunday.
"I'm very thankful for the support of my team-mates," said Nazrul, who revealed that in one of their final conversations, his father had told him to "focus and do my best at the SEA Games".
Having scored once in 21 appearances for Malaysian Super League champions LionsXII, he started Singapore's Games opener against Laos last Sunday.
"My team-mates have all been behind me, so I have to go back to support them," he said. "It's up to the coaches to decide if I should play but, if I do, it will be for my dad."
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