Football fans are raising money to build a mosque in memory of Theyab Awana, the young Emirati footballer killed in a car crash on Sunday night.
Dubai Charity Association will collect the first round of donations at the Al Wasl vs Al Wahda match in Dubai on Friday.
Awana’s club, Baniyas, have asked for their match on Friday to be postponed. There has been no training since his death, out of respect for those in mourning.
The 21-year-old UAE international winger died instantly when the Audi Q7 he was driving crashed into a stationary lorry on the Eastern Road near Sheikh Zayed Bridge. Police said the accident was caused by excessive speed and inattention at the wheel, and the investigation is closed.
They would not confirm that the footballer was sending messages on his BlackBerry smartphone when the accident happened, but said that appeared to be the case.
The head of traffic police in Dubai yesterday warned drivers against using mobile phones while driving, and said typing messages while driving was dangerous.
“The users lose concentration while driving, making them unable to respond quickly to sudden changes in the road,” Maj Gen Mohammed Al Zafeen said.
A BlackBerry message circulated since yesterday in English and Arabic echoed the warning.
“The young Emirati football Player, Theyab Awana, may his soul rest in peace, had the car accident while using his BlackBerry to type another bbm,” the message reads.
“His friends were ‘pinging’ him in disbelief when they first heard about his death, they wanted him to deny the rumour. But it was true. I kindly ask all of you, as a brother and friend, to never use your BlackBerry while driving.
“Don’t let yourself be the next BlackBerry victim. Do forward this in memory of the young man’s soul, and to save many more lives. Thank you, God bless.”
The Dubai Charity Association was contacted yesterday by Ahmed, a 25-year-old Emirati from Dubai who said he was a “great football fan” who wanted to do something “special for a special footballer”.
“There are so many of us fans feeling this loss, and so I thought of this idea to help us honour him and the football culture while doing charity at the same time,” said Ahmed. He asked for his full name to be withheld because “I am doing this for charity, not fame”.
Football fans have embraced the charity drive, and the fund-raising effort has been tweeted and retweeted on fan pages.
Awana’s international teammate Hamdan Al Kamali, a friend since their childhood together in Baniyas, remembered the many times they played football together, in sandpits or on the street across from their homes. “He was very active. Never sitting in one place.
“He was always the one who would cheer us all up with jokes, and was everyone’s friend. He was also very religious, and never missed a prayer.”
It is this side of Awana’s character that the fans want to pay tribute to with the mosque.
“We knew Theyab already built a mosque somewhere. He wouldn’t tell us where,” said Ahmed. “Everyone who knew him knew he was religious, and so we know it would mean a lot to him to have another mosque built in a less fortunate country.”
Mr Al Kamali was probably the last person to talk to Awana on the phone. He posted a still image of their last exchange of messages on the BlackBerry Messenger application.
“He was driving over to my place to drop off my car,” said Mr Al Kamali, 22. Awana called his friend at 11.15pm to say he had nearly arrived.
“He said he was two minutes away, and to send my brother to meet him outside in front of the house,” said Mr Al Kamali. “I said OK, and that was it. We hung up the phone. I never imagined that would be the last time I would hear his voice.”
When the two minutes became 15, he started sending messages to Awana asking where he was and what was the delay.
“Theyab? Ping. Theyab? Ping. Where are you?” the messages said.
“I am still in shock. He died just two minutes from my house,” Mr Al Kamali said.
Anyone who wishes to donate to the mosque-building effort is asked to contact the association at 04 2682000. A special account has been opened.
*With additional reporting by Haneen Dajani