Long time coach, mentor dies in tragic helicopter crash
[May 11, 2016 - Harmon, Guam] Members of the local soccer community are reeling from the shocking news that longtime youth coach, volunteer, and a design and project engineer for Guam’s FIFA Goal Projects, Asmuni Abdullah, was part of an entourage in Malaysia involved in a helicopter crash Thursday.
Abdullah, a former youth coach for the Crushers FC, a player for the club’s men’s team, and also an architect formerly with Von Watson & Associates in Guam, was traveling with his wife, Deputy Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Noriah Kasnon, along with four others in a helicopter, traveling from Betong to Kuching during campaigning for the Sarawak state election, Malaysian media reports state.
“We are deeply saddened to hear the news of this tragedy,” said Richard Lai, Guam Football Association President. “Muni was a wonderful friend and colleague to me, in addition to being a staunch supporter of the sport of football and in particular, grassroots development in Guam.
"Through his role as a youth coach for many years, he inspired many young football athletes and coaches to develop a passion for the game. As a volunteer in various GFA committees, he contributed greatly to GFA’s growth and development. He also was greatly involved in the completion of Guam’s first three FIFA Goal Projects and continued to support football in Guam even after relocating.
“On behalf of GFA, I send my most sincere condolences to Muni’s family, as well as the families of the other victims in last week’s tragic event,” Lai added.
The helicopter was reported missing Thursday and on Friday, debris from the helicopter was recovered as a result of a crash. According to Malaysian media reports, officials have relinquished hope of locating any survivors of the crash. Noriah’s body was the first to be recovered and identified Friday. Abdullah, Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry secretary-general Datuk Dr Sundaran Annamalai, and Noriah’s personal bodyguard, Ahmad Sobri Harun, and Kuala Kangsar MP Datuk Wan Mohammad Khai-ril Anuar Wan Ahmad also have been recovered and identified. Malaysian media reports state that the body of pilot Rudolf Rex Ragas still is missing and officials will continue to search the area.
Abdullah, formerly with Von Watson & Associates architecture firm, was a Design and Project Engineer for Guam’s first three FIFA Goal Projects, awarded to Guam in 2002, 2005, and 2009, respectively. He also designed and oversaw the construction of GFA’s beach soccer court, before relocating to New York City in 2011. He moved to Malaysia just before Christmas 2015.
A story was featured in the Pacific Daily News May 9, written by Katy Clarke:
Beloved soccer coach Muni Abdullah dies in Malaysian helicopter crash
Asmuni Abdullah was many things during his time in Guam — an architect, a husband, a father, a coach, a teammate, a mentor, a friend.
Coach Muni, as he was known most as, coached the Orange Crushers youth soccer team for several years. A player himself, as well as a certified referee, he knew everything about the game, and passed that knowledge on to his players.
Some of his players would grow up to win Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam championships. Some would go on to become the MVP of the league.
Abdullah died May 5 in a helicopter crash in Malaysia. His wife, Noriah Kasnon, a Malaysian deputy minister, also died in the crash.
“We are deeply saddened to hear the news of this tragedy,” Richard Lai, Guam Football Association president, said in a statement. “Muni was a wonderful friend and colleague to me, in addition to being a staunch supporter of the sport of football and in particular, grassroots development in Guam. Through his role as a youth coach for many years, he inspired many young football athletes and coaches to develop a passion for the game. As a volunteer in various GFA committees, he contributed greatly to GFA’s growth and development. He also was greatly involved in the completion of Guam’s first three FIFA Goal Projects and continued to support football in Guam even after relocating.”
Abdullah also was a mentor to his players. When it seemed everything was going wrong, he let players know things were going to be OK.
“Muni had an impact on a lot of the youths on the island,” said Chief Justice Robert Torres, Abdullah’s fellow coach, teammate and friend. “With every child, he looked for their qualities that made them special individually. He was able to convey to them that no matter how good you are, whether you’re a superstar or not, you were a special child and you could contribute to the team. And I think he was very good at bringing that out and conveying that message to the youth that he coached.”
Torres was in Washington, D.C., when he heard the news of Abdullah’s passing. Only hours before, Torres’ wife had shown him a photo Abdullah had posted on social media before the couple boarded the helicopter. Torres remembers his infectious smile, and how happy he looked.
Coming to grips with the tragedy has been difficult, Torres said, but that smile and optimism that Abdullah was known for have kept Torres going.
“I think it was because he was very positive,” said Torres. “Even in the most difficult of times, Muni was very positive. He looked for the silver lining in every cloud.”
That positive outlook and his outlook on life came from his faith.
Abdullah was an imam, or leader, of a Guam mosque, and was very faithful and traditional in his ways.
Even though his faith differed from a majority of his players, he had a favorite saying that he passed on to them. In his memory, former players have been sharing the saying on Facebook.
“There was a line that Muni had, that when God takes something away from you, he always gives you something better,” said Torres. “That’s the way he looked at children. He was always very positive and they loved playing for him.”
Torres is coordinating a memorial for Muni Abdullah. The details have yet to be announced.
The original story is available by clicking here.