Pak memorial service for murdered Woolmer

Published: Sunday, April 1, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Lahore:Pakistani players and dignitaries on Sunday attended a sombre memorial service for cricket coach Bob Woolmer, whose mysterious murder at the World Cup was one of the darkest episodes in sporting history.

Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq led a contingent of seven players among the 400 mourners at the 100-year-old Sacred Heart Church, while officials lit candles and laid floral wreaths at a portrait of the late Englishman.

Archbishop of Lahore Reverend Lawrence Saldanha said Woolmer, found strangled in his hotel room the day after Pakistan's shock World Cup exit to Ireland, was like a "second father" to his players.

"We pay tribute to his excellent qualities. He was known for his passionate interest in cricket. We salute him for his professional competency, as well as his sense of responsibility and commitment," Saldanha said.

"He was also a kind and gentle person who won the hearts of his players who looked up to him as a second father."

Inzamam, accompanied by team-mates Salman Butt, Imran Nazir, Shoaib Malik, Mohammed Asif, Mohammed Hafeez and Kamran Akmal, said Woolmer was an "excellent coach and above all things was an excellent human being."

"After Woolmer's family, the Pakistan team was the most aggrieved by his death," Inzamam said during the hour-long service.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Nasim Ashraf described Woolmer's death "a terrible tragedy" and said that he was a "rock of stability" who lived for cricket and loved the sport.

"He was internationally known and was the first modern coach of cricket. The world will follow his method and teachings," Ashraf said.

He remembered Woolmer as a man of simple tastes, choosing to live in a room at the National Cricket Academy rather than a five-star hotel, who developed a taste for Pakistani food and movies and understood some Urdu.

"He would go to food street (a restaurant area of Lahore) and watch Pakistani movies and he once told me that the boys do not know that I understand half of their jokes," Ashraf said.

Ashraf lit candles and along with Punjab governor Khalid Maqbool laid wreaths on behalf of President Pervez Musharraf around Woolmer's portrait, which was decorated with red roses and yellow marigold.

"Muslims and Christian citizens gathered here at the Sacred Heart Church over the sorrowful death of coach Bob Woolmer and all prayed for the departed soul," Maqbool said.

"Defeat and victory is part of the game. The disappointment of Pakistani cricket team is just for the time being. It will soon emerge as one of the greatest cricket teams of the world," Maqbool said.

Woolmer's death has shocked the international cricket community and left cricket fans and the team reeling amid speculation over who might have been responsible.

Woolmer, 58, became Pakistan coach in 2004 and earned respect from many Pakistanis.

The death of Woolmer, also a former coach of South Africa, has sparked one of the most complex murder investigations in Jamaican history.

It also triggered speculation about possible links to match-fixing and illegal betting in cricket.

Around 50 officers are attempting to track down hundreds of potential witnesses who were either visiting or staying at Kingston's Pegasus Hotel in the days leading up to Woolmer's death.


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