By Gregory Loo and Kenneth Chew
SINGAPORE - Please play for Singapore. That is the message from Singapore's footballing fraternity to Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi, sons of Singapore football legend Fandi Ahmad.
Fandi revealed to The New Paper on Wednesday that he is undecided on the boys' international futures, with National Service being a potential stumbling block.
Irfan and Ikhsan, 13 and 11, are eligible to play for Singapore as well as South Africa through their mother, Wendy Jacobs.
The two talented youngsters have been catching the eyes of scouts from Premiership giants Arsenal and Chelsea at Arsenal's International Soccer Festival in Surrey, with the younger Ikhsan being likened to a young Francesco Totti.
Prominent figures in Singapore football whom The New Paper spoke to were unequivocal in wanting the two boys to put on the same colours as their celebrated father. Former national coach Jita Singh feels that the boys have a rich footballing legacy to carry on.
"Fandi should consider letting them play football for Singapore," said Jita. "Fandi's father was Ahmad Wartam, a former international. Even Fandi's uncle, the late Abu Sujak, played for Singapore.
So it would be sad to see his sons play for somebody else." "Being a Singaporean, I would like them to play for Singapore," said Young Lions manager, Eugene Loo. "I have seen them kick about before and they have a lot of talent. We've been looking for the next Fandi and it just so happens that either one of his sons could be it."
Young Lions coach V. Sundramoorthy advised a more cautious approach. "It is up to Fandi, but I would definitely want them to play for Singapore," said the former national striker, the only other Singapore footballer to have made an impact in Europe.
"We have to take things one step at a time as they are only 11 and 13. Speaking strictly on footballing terms, the boys should continue at as high a level as they can.
"Training and working hard over in Europe is good for them, as the level of football is completely different, and of a higher standard and calibre. "These are the future star players in Europe, so by playing with them every day, and competing with them in training, the development of our boys can only improve."
However, should the boys choose to become Lions, their development during NS will be absolutely crucial, as it will be around the critical age when young footballers who are good enough usually break into the first team in Europe.