By Ami Afriatni
Jakarta:Indonesia’s sporting community mourned the passing over the weekend of top badminton umpire Unang Sukardja, best remembered for officiating what is widely considered one of the greatest matches of all time.
Unang, 55, passed away on last Friday from a hemorrhagic stroke and was buried on last Saturday at a public cemetery in Ciledug, on the western outskirts of Jakarta. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.
“It is a very, very sad news and I am shocked,” Gilles Calvert, a French umpire who, like Unang, is endorsed by the Badminton World Federation (BWF), said in an e-mail.
“I met Unang several times in the past years, either as umpire or referee, and he was a good friend of mine. My deepest thoughts go to his family and Indonesian badminton friends.”
In a statement on its website, the BWF also paid tribute to Unang. “He was one of the very best umpires in the world and finished at the pinnacle of his career,” Torsten Berg, the chairman of the federation’s technical official commission, said.
“This is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that he was in the chair of the men’s singles final in the London Olympic Games between Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei, often called the best match ever played. Unang managed that job impeccably as he did so many other challenging duties.”
Lin won that match in a three-game thriller to defend the title he had won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“Unang’s smiling appearance and friendly manners won him many friends among BWF’s technical officials,” Berg wrote.
“He was an excellent example and a good teacher for younger colleagues. Recently he had started refereeing and we had hoped to have him around for many years in that capacity. Sadly, that is not to be.”
In addition to the 2012 men’s final, Unang also officiated at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Games.
Taufik Hidayat, Indonesia’s 2004 Olympic champion, said the Indonesian badminton community had “lost one of its greatest people.”
“Thank you and rest in peace,” Taufik added.