22/07/2019 04:34 PM

By Siti Baaqiah Mamat

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 (Bernama) -- Fifteen years may have passed but Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Aziz still talks excitedly about his first meeting with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah, who was then Tengku Mahkota of Pahang.

Recounting that day in a Japanese restaurant here, Tengku Zafrul said he remembers feeling nervous at having to engage with a member of the royalty, what more the ever-popular and well-respected Tengku Mahkota of Pahang 

However, his fears dissipated as Sultan Abdullah exuded warmth and displayed fine hospitality, making  Tengku Zafrul, who was then a director in a financial institution, and the others at that lunch meeting feel relaxed.

“After that, we kept in contact and became friends. Perhaps it is because we have the same hobbies and interests, especially in sports, we are now close friends,” Tengku Zafrul, who is the group chief executive officer of CIMB, told Bernama in an interview held in conjunction with the installation of Sultan Abdullah as the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong on July 30.

Tengku Zafrul, 46, often spends time with Sultan Abdullah, pursuing various activities, especially sports, as well as in official and unofficial events such as corporate social responsibility programmes.

He said Sultan Abdullah always emphasised spending quality time with friends. His Majesty’s favourite sports are football and polo and, lately, squash.

In fact, Tengku Zafrul said, they have even gone overseas together to watch sports events, especially football.

 “Last year, we went to see the finals of the FIFA World Cup match between France and Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow,” he said.

However, he said, he and Sultan Abdullah are in different camps when it comes to the English Premier League football as he supports Liverpool while His Majesty is an Arsenal fan.

Tengku Zafrul said that despite Sultan Abdullah’s busy schedule as the head of state, the King never lets his duties get in the way of their friendship.

He said His Majesty would always find the time to meet up with friends at least thrice a month.

“We thought that since he has been elected the King, it will affect our activities, but he always finds the time to meet up,” said Tengku Zafrul.

“Actually, when it comes to friends, His Majesty is the same person whom we had first met, which shows that he is not someone who forgets his friends,” he said.

Every time Sultan Abdullah meets his friends, he would ask about their families, even if he has never met them before, he said.

“He would give us advice and often come up with good ideas, and ask about current issues affecting the people.

“His openness makes us feel free to talk to him about anything and get his opinion before making a decision,” Tengku Zafrul said.



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