A cricket league in Regina is renaming its season to honour a player killed in a motorcycle accident earlier this year — a man being remembered as a great player, and a good friend, by the person who was with him the night of his fatal accident.
The Regina Cricket Association will be known as the Ahmed Cheema League for the 2020 season, and the top team will take the Ahmed Cheema Cup in honour of the 24-year-old.
"You have to have a great personality to make such an impact that after your loss, they are going to remember you in this way," said Muhammad Siddiqui, a teammate and close friend of Ahmed Cheema's who was with him on May 19, the night he died in the single-vehicle motorcycle crash.
"Every single thing happened right in front of my eyes. There hasn't been a single day that I don't think about him," Siddiqui said.
The accident happened at the intersection of 23rd Avenue and Wascana Parkway — a road where the city has since lowered the speed limit from 70 km/h to 50.
Siddiqui says he and Cheema were only a few feet apart when the accident happened. He said he's been in accidents himself in the past, and thought Cheema would be OK.
But when he quickly parked his bike and ran over to Cheema, he saw that wasn't the case.
"When you're that close to someone and then he just goes like that, right in front of your eyes … it's really tough to take," he said. "He was two feet away from me, and I couldn't still do anything."
Siddiqui said he has prayed to Allah, asking why it happened — but knows it's out of his control.
"I have to accept the reality.… A person can go in your hands in front of you. You can't do anything. When death has to come, death comes," he said.
"I definitely would do anything in this world if I could change it."
Like an older brother
Siddiqui, who played with his friend on the Titans cricket team, said Cheema was like an older brother.
The two met when Cheema first moved to Regina in 2016.
"We had been so connected," he said. "We had such a great understanding and a bond. It's really, really sad that he's not here anymore."
Cheema's family, originally from Pakistan, now live in Saudi Arabia, meaning Siddiqui had to call their friends and tell them what happened.
Siddiqui said Cheema — who was involved in Lexeme Theatre, a multilingual media and theatre company, and hosted a community radio show — was a kind person and never said no to any ideas, or to helping anyone.
"He was the most ambitious guy in our whole friend group," Siddiqui said.
It's just a different emotion for us. It was a brother who used to step on the ground with us and now he's not anymore. - Muhammad Siddiqui
Cheema had just started his own business when the pandemic hit, Siddiqui said. Even still, Cheema was constantly positive and hopeful for his future.
Siddiqui also said cricket runs in his blood, and the same was true for Cheema, who was always ready for a game and was one of the best players in the league, with his speed on both sides of the game.
"As a player, he was really dangerous," Siddiqui said. "He got, like, six balls consecutively out of the park — he'd be … lightning quick."
'Everybody liked him'
The fact the league is renaming itself to honour him shows how much Cheema's death affected the community, Siddiqui said.
"I was so happy he had such an impact," he said.
Regina Cricket Association president Imran Rana said he and the association board were thinking of ways to honour him and immediately thought of renaming the league for the season.
Rana used to see Cheema almost daily. The two worked together at the Cornwall Centre and Cheema often stopped by offering a coffee, he said.
"He had a very large group of friends.… Everybody liked him, since his personality was so soft in terms of helping people, talking to them and listening to them," Rana said. "It was a big shock for everybody."
Cheema's death was felt throughout the 24 teams in the Regina Cricket Association, Rana said, which has about 600 to 700 players each season.
"We definitely have a lot of respect for him and we remember him," he said. As for renaming the league, "everybody said 'Yeah, that's the right move to do.' We got a lot of positive responses."
Rana said it will be an emotional day when the Ahmed Cheema Cup is presented on Sept. 7.
Siddiqui hopes his team can continue winning games into the playoffs, which start on Aug. 28, and he particularly hopes his team will be able to lift the cup named after Cheema.
"Inshallah [Allah willing], I'll just give it my 110 per cent to lift this cup for our brother," he said.
"It's just a different emotion for us. It was a brother who used to step on the ground with us and now he's not anymore," he said. "We would definitely want to hoist that cup just for him."
Siddiqui said Cheema's friends are working on other ways to carry his memory forward.
"He's living in our hearts."