SINGAPORE - The last time they played football together was almost 20 years ago.
But a group of former national youth players will lace up their boots one more time this Sunday at Bedok Stadium, for a fallen "brother".
The group of about 40 players born in 1982 and 1983 will play against a team comprising MediaCorp Suria artists in a charity match for Mr Muhammad Mirza Abdul Razak.
Mr Assadiq Bakri, one of his former teammates who will be playing on Sunday, said: "Many of us are fathers now. When I had my firstborn, I remembered I always rushed home every day from work just to see my daughter. So Mirza's passing really hit me hard."
Mr Assadiq said he and a few of Mr Mirza's former teammates had mooted the idea of collecting donations to help Madam Diana financially. The idea grew to become a charity football match.
Another of Mr Mirza's former teammates is Mr Nor Azli Yusoff, a defender with Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League team Tanjong Pagar United.
Mr Azli said: "I was in hospital recovering from an operation (for cheekbone fracture) when I heard the news, and I was in shock and disbelief.
"The next day, many of our ex-teammates were there at his funeral. You could say that's when the idea to do something for him came about. The main thing all of us wanted to do was make sure his baby was taken care of."
Mr Mirza, who was described as a "quiet" guy off the field, was well known among his peers for his determination, fitness and fighting spirit on it.
So much so that even those players who knew him and went on to become national team stars, like LionsXII duo Baihakki Khaizan and Khairul Amri, offered to help. Baihakki and Amri, along with other LionsXII players like Isa Halim and Sufian Anuar, will be there at Bedok Stadium.
They will not be playing, but will take photos with the public at a special photobooth for a $10 donation.
TAKE A PENALTY
For $20, members of the public can also take a penalty with any one of the stars standing as a goalkeeper.
A donation box will be set up at the stadium for those who wish to donate larger amounts. All proceeds will go directly to Madam Diana.
Mr Assadiq said he is proud so many former players stepped up to offer help and donations.
He said: "Back then, there wasn't the glamour of being in the national youth teams like today, and we played for the flag. We fought hard for one another, and so the bond is there. We were like brothers.
"So, even though so many years have passed and along the way most of us didn't end up playing professionally, we are still there for one another."
As she is still in confinement, Madam Diana said she will not be able to attend the charity match.
She said: "But I'm very touched that his former teammates have decided to come together to organise this event.
"The money they raise will be kept aside for my baby's future."
WHAT: Mirza's 11 (comprising former national youth players) v MediaCorp Suria artists
WHEN: Sunday, 5pm
WHERE: Bedok Stadium
This article was first published on June 18, 2014.
Get The New Paper for more stories.