In the mid-90s, plastic fans were rooting for Blackburn Rovers for a short while (before switching back to Manchester United, or Chelsea in recent history). It sounded ridiculous, but it’s true. Blackburn “Fucking” Rovers. I’d call it a fluke any day of the week. But anyway, being born in Leeds, naturally I’m a Leeds United fan. And at that period of time, after winning the league in 1992, Leeds United were alternating their positions between top 5 and mid table consistently every season before their ghastly demise in the new millennia.

Que was a Gooner long before any other of my high school friends gave any two shits about the Arsenal Football Club. When Le Professeur signed Marc Overmars back in 1997, Que was especially overwhelmed. Apart from Marc Overmars being one of the integral part of the start of Le Professeur’s winning reign, Que was more proud on the fact that he shared the same wide forehead as Marc Overmars. Smiles beaming, forehead shining while taking numerous photographs with his own Marc Overmars posters in his dormitory. He was proud to be a Gooner.

After high school, it so happens that Que and I ended up in the same university. To be honest we were not really close. Events on the paragraph above was my own observation from afar, some would say an inaccurate summary of Que, and I won’t argue with that. Our differences were palpable, from political inclination to social philosophy and of course football fandom. But the animosity were never shown in public.

When Arsenal pummelled Leeds United, 4-1 at Elland Road on November 2003, that was the pinnacle of my hatred towards Arsenal, and everyone else associated with that team, including Que. Arsenal were crowned champions of the Premier League without a single loss that season, hence The Invincibles. Whereby, Leeds United were later relegated and therefore ceased to be televised on local TV channels during the weekends. My interest in the Premier League faded and my weekends became a bore, as boring as watching Manchester United under Fergie winning every silverware that were being offered. They tricked Eric Cantona to join them from Leeds United at the end of 1992 [sic]!

Well, life goes on. But the same could not be said for Que. Around 2009, he was diagnosed with a weird illness, which was later confirmed as POEMS Syndrome. One day when he was walking together with his wife in a shopping mall, suddenly he was walking backwards when his brain was telling him to take steps forward. It was a laughable story that he would tell people who visited him in the hospital, but things got worse for him. Doctors were initially bewildered with his symptoms. Treatments were done in a trial and error manner, he was a guinea pig. Chemotherapy was one of them. Eventually, after comparing test results in the global medical community, doctors confirmed it to be POEMS Syndrome. At that time, the only person in this world with the same condition as Que, was an old man in Germany. The German succumbed to the illness a year later.

Friends working around the Klang Valley visited him regularly during his fortnightly treatment at the University Hospital. Maybe I was visiting sincerely, or maybe I was just accompanying Jim, Que’s best friend. Whatever the case, being a frequent visitor and witnessing his mass deterioration, I became closer with Que, and for the first time, I felt that we were real friends. One of the things that I would often talk with him was about Arsenal. It did bring feeble smiles on his face whenever the Gunners were the topic of conversation.

On 9th of January 2012, Arsenal hosted Leeds United for an FA Cup, 3rd Round match. The interesting thing was, Arsenal’s living legend, Thierry Henry was loaned back to Arsenal from New York Redbulls before the MLS season started, and he was in the team sheet. The match was televised live on local satellite TV and I watched it with Que in my mind. My favourite team versus Que’s favourite team, with a footballing legend from our university days playing with his old club, then scored the winner. It was a fairy tale match written in the stars for every single Gooners ever lived. Although my team lost, I felt happy. Happy for Que. This was definitely going to be my topic of conversation with Que during my next visit to the hospital.

*****

“I don’t care about Arsenal. All I care is to keep on holding to dear life”, he whispered in my ears.

Que later died on the second day of Eid in 2012.

*****

When he told me those words, I was certain that he was going to die. It was just a matter of time. Another Gooner was leaving normal. Then out of nowhere, I whispered back to his ears,

“I will take your place Que. I will become a Gooner in memory of you”

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