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Old May 21, 2011, 05:10 PM
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Al Musabbir Sadi: 1967-2011

EVER SMILING: This picture of the late Al Musabbir Sadi was taken during a trip to the Maldives last year.

Eminent sports journalist and incumbent general secretary of the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF), Al Musabbir Sadi passed away at 5:00 am on Friday following a brief battle with cancer. He was 44. He left behind his wife, two children, his mother, a brother and a sister along with a legion of friends and well wishers to whom he was known simply as "Pommel".

The son of Abdul Kuddus Sadi, a writer and a journalist, Sadi was born in the city's Hatkhola area on January 17, 1967. A sports enthusiast even in his early years, Sadi was also an avid reader, regaling himself with stories of the famous Masud Rana and other notable Cold War spy novels in his youth. He was also a talented student and finished his SSC with flying colours from the city's eminent Government Laboratory School in 1982. He completed his HSC from Dhaka College in 1984 and managed to land a spot to study medicine at the Barisal Medical College in 1985.

The confines of medical school did not agree with his free spirit and liberal outlook on life. He left after a single year and enrolled in the Department of Sociology in Dhaka University in 1986. It was here that he blossomed into the humble, free-thinking individual that he matured into later in life. He listened to The Doors and Dire Straits, idolised Jim Morrison and Mark Knopfler, fell in love with the remnants of Tele Santana's famous Brazil squad and King Kenny's Liverpool before early in the 90s spotting a young Indian cricketer whose fortunes he would track for the rest of his life.

And even as Sachin Tendulkar's star grew and Dunga lifted the World Cup in the New World, Sadi graduated from Dhaka University in 1993 and after some dithering decided to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a journalist. Sport was his first love and true to character, he defied conventional wisdom and started his journalism career with the then up and coming English-language daily, the Independent.

In his near 15-year journalism career, Sadi was always primarily a football reporter even as his beloved sport waned and disappeared from the public eye. His efforts to bring football back to the public eye were ceaseless and it finally culminated in him taking over the mantle of general secretary of the BFF in April 2009.

But in that decade and a half, Sadi stood out in the community as a trail-blazer whose greatest quality was that he always had time for a word with his colleagues, however young or old they were. His career at the Independent lasted nine years before he switched to The Daily Star in 2004. In the five years that he spent here, Sadi set himself apart with his exhaustive knowledge of football, his quick eye for talent, his management skill and his varied interests in activities beyond sport. He became a published author; his Bangla serialisation of Brian Lara's autobiography, "Beating the Field" for Bengali daily Prothom Alo catching the eye of publishers Annanya who released it as a full-fledged book.

In a life spent challenging himself to reach greater heights, Sadi left The Daily Star in 2009 to start a new phase in his life. BFF president Kazi Salahuddin thought so highly of him that he was made the first ever paid general secretary when he joined the football governing body in April of that year. All his life Sadi had worked ceaselessly from behind the line. This was his chance to prove himself in a capacity with greater responsibility. As usual, it was a task he took to like a fish to water and until he was diagnosed with cancer in March 2011 he continued to serve the federation with excellence and integrity.

The cancer spread swiftly moving from stomach to bone to brain and even a ceaseless fighter like Sadi who had continued to defy odds all through his life could not cope. It took his life but it failed to break his spirit, which will live on through his family, friends and thousands of well-wishers.

Sadi's passing will leave a gaping hole in the lives of his two young children and his wife, and while their pain cannot be shared, it will also be felt by the countless people who knew him.

His intelligence, wit, sense of humour and serene quality had always set him apart from his peers but most of all what defined Sadi was his sense of humility; his self-effacing demeanour which meant he was always first to credit others even in his own success. So humble was he that if he were alive and reading this now, it is almost certain he would balk at being described in such terms as anything but ordinary. But to those who knew him, he will always be exactly that, a man who was 'anything but ordinary'.
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