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Shamir Osman
Monday, Jul 7, 2014

Sports

Football: Irfan's not ready, says Fandi

The New Paper | Shamir Osman | Monday, Jul 7, 2014

He burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old, donned the national jersey at 17, then went on to take Singapore football by storm, scoring the winning goal in a 2-1 win over Selangor in the 1980 Malaysia Cup final.

Fandi Ahmad is well and truly a Singapore football legend, but all he wants for his sons - two of whom have been called up to the national Under-23 side for a 16-day (July 7-23) training tour to Austria - is for them to be judged as players in their own right.

Irfan, 16, and Ikhsan, 15, have been included in Aide Iskandar's squad for a European trip that Fandi will also be part of. And he is not demanding that they follow in his trail-blazing footsteps - they do not even need to force their way into the national team now. He said: "I just want them to develop properly.

"No rush, slowly and surely, as long as they get there.

"People do put pressure on them because they are my sons, but they have their own strengths and weaknesses - they are players in their own right.

"I hope they are not judged based on the fact that they are my sons."

National coach Bernd Stange has his eye on 1.85-metre forward Irfan, saying in an earlier interview with The New Paper that his physique makes him a rare breed in the region.

He promised Irfan will get at least one game, perhaps against the Under-23 side of German giants Borussia Dortmund.

With goals a perennial problem for the national side, Stange hinted that Irfan could be included in the year-end AFF Suzuki Cup squad - if he impresses.

But Fandi is not demanding much from his first born, who will turn 17 next month, instead calling for a tempering of expectations.

NATIONAL TEAM

"I don't think he's ready for the national team yet. But Irfan can physically match up now, and that's important in modern football," said the 52-year-old, who paid tribute to the high-intensity, fitness-focused training at Chilean club Universidad Catolica.

Ikhsan also joined the club some seven months ago together with his brother, and Fandi asserts that he has also shown improvement.

Said the LionsXII coach: "Ikhsan is still not big, but he's faster and stronger now.

"And being with older boys will be good for him, they help him along.

"It's an honour for him to be included, and it's definitely special to be going on a training tour with them."

Both boys have been in Chile for over a year, and are back in Singapore on a one-month school break.

They will fly back to Chile after returning from Austria.

Fandi believes this overseas stint has helped them grow as persons and players.

He said: "They want to be professional players, and now they are starting to know what it takes to get there.

"They are able to endure tough training and are so disciplined that they still go to the gym (these days) even though they are fasting."

Ikhsan is already showing a gumption beyond his years.

"Ikhsan has said before: 'I'm not my father, I'm my own person,' and it's good that he's confident like that," said Fandi.

"They are ambitious, and while we hope they do well, and support them, in the end, it is really up to them to make it as players in their own right."

The 20-man U-23 side will face Czech side FC Pribram along with Dortmund.

The team will depart for Austria along with a 21-strong senior national squad on Monday.

shamiro@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 05, 2014.
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