Football

Ex-Lion Dhanaraj, 29, succumbs to cancer

Ex-Lion Dhanaraj, 29, succumbs to cancer
Adrian Dhanaraj (left) played for Gombak United and earned two caps for Singapore. Photo: FAS
Published: 4:03 AM, September 13, 2013
Updated: 4:00 AM, September 14, 2013

SINGAPORE — The football fraternity rallied behind Adrian Dhanaraj when it was announced last year that the Gombak United player had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Yesterday, news came through that Dhanaraj had lost his battle with the blood cancer on Wednesday night. He turned 29 last Tuesday.

It also emerged that the footballer had married his girlfriend of two years Malvina Tan, 24, a day before his passing. They had planned to tie the knot next year.

Said his mother, Sulojani Dhanaraj: “Adrian told me he wanted to get married right after he got discharged from the hospital … but we knew the end was close, and we fulfilled his wish.”

Remembered for his hard tackles on the pitch and his fighting spirit, Dhanaraj was diagnosed last September with stage two of Hodgkin’s lymphoma. By then, the Gombak United player — he also played for Geylang United, SAFFC and the Young Lions in the S-League and was adept in defence and midfield — had twice been called up to the national team by Radojko Avramovic, earning his caps against Vietnam and North Korea in the 2010 Vietnam Football Federation Cup.

Dhanaraj underwent extensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy. He had one stem cell transplant procedure and was free of cancer symptoms in May. He suffered a relapse in June, and told his mother: “If we have to fight, we fight.”

By late August, the cancer cells had spread to his left lung and doctors were unable to put him through further chemotherapy.

“The doctors wanted him to go back under chemotherapy but he didn’t have enough white blood cells to undergo the treatment,” said Madam Sulojani. “The hospital harvested his brother’s stem cells which were a 100 per cent match, but the effect of the transplant would take 14 days and there wasn’t enough time.”

Dhanaraj’s passing was greeted with dismay as news of it spread quickly on social media platforms.

Posting on Facebook, former international R Sasikumar said: “His attitude and respect for people is something I have never seen in local football. My heart aches thinking about it.”

Current national defender Baihakki Khaizan posted on Twitter and Instagram: “A true professional who doesn’t believe in the word ‘Giving Up’… Rest In Peace Adrian Dhanaraj 1984-2013”. FELICIA QUICK