Squash game postponed but funds raised handed to NGOs to feed the poor

December, 2020

(From third right) Fernandes and Kalimullah at the cheque presentation ceremony with representatives of the five NGOs. — AZMAN GHANI/The Star

The Star, Grace Chen

THE much-anticipated squash match between AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and businessman Tan Sri Mohamad Salim Fateh Din has not taken place due to the conditional movement control order. But they are handing over the RM750,000 raised to five non-governmental organisations first so it can be used to help the urban poor affected by the pandemic.

An initiative by ECM Libra Foundation, the charity match known as Battle of the Bulge — so named after the players’ ample physiques — was originally scheduled for Oct 18 at Nicol David Arena in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur but was postponed to Dec 4. The event, which would be carried out without the presence of spectators, was to be telecast and streamed live via Astro Arena and Facebook.

But due to the extension of the conditional MCO, the game will be rescheduled to a later date next year.

“We don’t know when, ” replied ECM Libra Group chairman Datuk Seri Kalimullah Hassan with regard to the date.

“But of course it will happen, ” he assured.

He said watching the two business personalities sweat it out on court was a highly anticipated match.

“The problem is contact sports, like squash, are not allowed now. Once the conditional MCO is lifted, we will host the match, ” he added.

Hinting that those who intended to tune in to the match would be rewarded for their patience was Fernandes, who said that he would be a lot slimmer by the time the charity match takes place next year.He was among those present at the cheque presentation ceremony where Pertiwi Soup Kitchen, Kechara Soup Kitchen, Good Shepherd Services, Chow Kit Foundation and Malaysia Relief Agency received the money.

The funds will be used by the NGOs to prepare 120,000 to 125,000 meals for the poor.

“The organisations we have chosen will make sure the donations are given to the right people.

“ECM Libra Foundation has worked with them over the past 16 years and we know they are reliable, ” said Kalimullah.

The charity match attracted 28 donors. Sums donated varied from RM1,000 to RM200,000.

“We targeted 50 donors and those who responded were mostly our friends.

“As they are charitable people with empathy and compassion, it has not taken much to convince them, despite the economic crunch. This is because they trust us as well. “Throughout the 16 years of the foundation’s existence, this is the first time we are asking money from outside. Before this, the funds had always come from me and my partner. All in, we have given RM50mil to charity from our own pockets, ” said Kalimullah.

In addition to the charity squash match, the foundation had also opened hotel rooms to frontliners, contributed ventilators, hand sanitiser and masks as well as started food programmes for more than 1,600 families throughout these nine months of the MCO.

Entertainment value aside, the squash match aims to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless.

“It is a perennial problem that requires us to find a solution and I hope the government can put in the effort to solve the problem of homelessness, ” said Fernandes who has gone to areas like Chow Kit to see the situation for himself.

Describing what he saw in Chow Kit as distressing, he said this was a social issue that must be taken very seriously as it could lead to other serious problems.