Tennis-Bramley Image Credit: Supplied photo

Dubai: Slah Bramly has passed away. A friend, a mentor, a sympathiser, an official and finally, an honest man.

When I heard that Slah was no more on Wednesday I was left pondering over the years since we first met. It was 2001 and I clearly remember the Dubai Tennis Championships was waiting expectantly for some of the top women players for the inaugural tournament.

The tennis stadium was like a home to me during those two weeks and Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, the then vice president of Tennis Emirates called to say that he would like me to come over and meet the new technical secretary.

I made time and there before me was a simple man, with no frills, but just plain talk on how we could inject some spirit in this sport especially at the grassroots levels. In the background and seated at the other table was his shy wife Ramla and their first-born, Fatima.

As the years rolled by, I got to know the Bramly family even better. Fatima got the company with Yasmine and Yosra following. And, Slah’s enthusiasm for seeing tennis spread among the UAE population only grew.

Having a person like Slah around, helped in more ways than one. For one, there was nothing tennis-related that he wasn’t aware about. Be it the changing rules or the introduction of new balls for the kids’ development programme, he was there with all the information one needed. He was like a ready-reckoner who could answer any question and explain in detail.

As time passed, I got to really know Slah. Like any of us, he had his pet ideas, ideals and goals. And he chased these with vigour and enthusiasm. His all-time pet idea was to one day see a pool of local UAE kids compete with each other for a place in the national squad representing the country at prestigious competitions such as the Davis Cup.

He loved hosting competitions for kids. He loved being around them. One of the last such competitions was held at Al Nasr Leisureland’s tennis courts some time last year, and Slah was there even though his health didn’t exactly allow him to take the stress.

But, he valued people and believed in them. I remember he once telling me to “never leave covering UAE tennis”, simply because there weren’t many in my profession who even bothered to give it due publicity.

“You are doing good service for the game in the UAE. I know, and you know, what we are up against. But, the important thing is that we stick around a little bit more for the sake of these youngsters and for the sake of this sport,” he would smile.

You didn’t keep your part of the deal, Slah.

Rest in Peace, my friend.