History buffs would undoubtedly be well familiar with the famous tale of Adolf Hitler’s last major offensive against the Western Front in the winter of 1944 during World War II. Also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, the brutal, six-weeks long Battle of the Bulge was hailed as “the greatest American battle of the war” by Sir Winston Churchill and has since entered the annals of history for decisively paving the path that led to eventual victory for the Allies.
Fast forward 75 years, another battle of the same name is shaping up in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. Rest assured, no blood will be shed nor divisions of soldiers sacrificed in the name of vainglory, but come the afternoon of Oct 18, there will be an almighty clash indeed.
The battlefield in question this time is the National Squash Centre’s Nicol David Arena, named for Malaysia’s living squash legend, in Bukit Jalil’s Kuala Lumpur Sports City. And taking the place of the Axis and the Allies are, instead, two formidable corporate titans — Tan Sri Tony Fernandes,
CEO of AirAsia Group, and property tycoon Tan Sri Mohamad Salim Fateh Din, group managing director of Gapurna, whose most recent business venture is the Costa Coffee franchise.
THE BATTLE CRY
All great wars begin with a single spark. In the case of World War I, it was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, by a Serbian nationalist. Much further back in time, the Trojan War began after Queen Helen of Sparta eloped with the Trojan prince Paris. In the Battle of the Bulge (BOTB) 2020, however, the scenario proved infinitely tamer, with nary a whiff of scandal thereabouts, although latent hostility had been simmering for sometime now.
“We were at a dinner with Salim, just after the MCO (Movement Control Order),” says veteran journalist and chairman of ECM Libra Foundation, Datuk Seri Kalimullah Hassan. “The conversation focused on the socioeconomic problems faced by the B40, when Ralph Marshall suggested that Salim and Tony Fernandes play a squash game to raise money for the marginalised and vulnerable groups.
"We all know that Tony and Salim aren’t on the friendliest of terms. Both have long-running battles, sniping at each other all the time. We thought Salim would not agree; when he said yes, we then thought Tony wouldn’t agree. But he did — and, immediately, we might add, after we texted him. I was surprised, but then I remembered how both Tony and Salim had used their celebrity and corporate status many times before to do charity. For BOTB 2020, both put aside their personality issues for a good cause — and this should be lauded.”
For the full story, pick up a copy of The Edge Malaysia (Oct 12, 2020) at your nearest news stand. Save by subscribing to us for your print and/or digital copy.