PHYSICALLY, he is in Tan Tock Seng Hospital's intensive care unit, fighting to recover after a serious accident which claimed the life of his brother. Yet Azreen Sairudin's situation was poignantly acknowledged at the Singapore Expo yesterday as the Singapore sepak takraw team kicked off their SEA Games men's team matches.
As the name of each Singapore player was announced before the opener against Indonesia, each of them held up Azreen's yellow jersey in a heartfelt show of support.
Azreen, 25, was taken to the hospital in the early hours of Sunday morning after the motorcycle that he and his brother Aqil Sairudin were riding was involved in a collision with a car.
Aqil, 21, subsequently succumbed to his injuries. The Straits Times understands that Azreen is still in serious condition in hospital, although it is not clear what his injuries are.
A statement released yesterday by Team Singapore's chefs de mission Nicholas Fang and Tan Eng Liang said that the athlete "had a second (bout of) surgery today and is now resting in the surgical intensive care unit".
The absence of Azreen, a key player, had an impact as Singapore lost 0-3 to Indonesia in their first group tie and 0-3 to Thailand later in the day.
Coach Padli Othman praised his charges despite the losses.
He said: "Last night at the team hotel, the boys came together after a psychology session and we decided that we would play today's matches in honour of the late Aqil and also for Azreen.
"The situation that we are in is not easy at all for the team, but my squad are full of fighters and they gave their best out there."
But the coach said there was no doubt the team missed their man. "Azreen is a main player for us. He would have made a lot of difference for us, but now the team and I want to just pray for him to recover as soon as possible."
Team captain Farhan Aman urged his side to continue fighting. The sepak takraw team are targeting at least a gold, but they have only four bronzes so far.
"We have nothing to lose right now. We have trained hard for two years and we just have to carry on because we have business to take care of at the Games," said the 34-year-old.
"No doubt, these are hard times because Azreen is one of us but we have to fight for him and make him proud with our efforts on the court."