Friday, March 27, 2009

The Next Generation?

When I was growing up, Singaporean football was on the ascendancy in South East Asia. I remembered watching the Kuala Lumpur team sweeping all trophies in Malaysia. That KL team boasting of 3 extremely skilful Singaporeans, Fandi Ahmad, K. Kannan and Malek Awab. The skills they possess and the understanding they displayed were awesome. Together with current pundit Shebby Singh who was a "Alan Hansen" type centreback, they were unbeatable.
Fandi Ahmad, in particular was the standout golden boy of his generation. He was the first Singaporean footballer to be a success in a European league, choosing to further his career and experience at FC Groningen in Holland. He was inducted into FC Groningen's club Hall of Fame, named as the best top 25 players ever played from them, playing in 44 matches scoring 12 goals.
He is now a successful coach with Pelita Jaya in the Indonesian League, living the good life with his x-model wife and 3 children. Like Fandi, his children inherited his footballing skills. I came across an article in a Singapore paper which I found a good read.

As coach of Indonesian club Pelita Jaya, Fandi Ahmad spends much of his time at the training ground, bellowing instructions to players, getting them ready for the matches ahead.
On certain days, three bright-eyed boys watch from the sidelines, eager to learn from the big men. The trio may one day make it. They have natural athleticism in their blood, adrenaline in their veins, and nothing but football in their heads.

They are Fandi's sons - Irfan, 11, Ikhsan, 9 and Ilhan, 6.
They hope that one day, they could follow the footsteps of their dad.
Already, the signs are looking good. They train at least thrice a week, either with their school Sekolah Tiara Bangsa, Arsenal's football school in Indonesia, or with dad.
Eldest son Irfan is a feisty striker who once scored seven goals in a competitive game with his peers. He impressed scouts during recent football camps and stints at AC Milan and Valencia.
Said Fandi, 'He's an aggressive player. His team just won the Jakarta International Youth Tournament and he was selected for the All-Stars team".
Ikhsan possesses as much potential, if not more. Just 9, he has a record of scoring 13 goals in one game. Fandi described him as a 'more complete player' and a 'natural'. Like Irfan, he also impressed coaches in Europe earlier this year. He recently scored eight goals in seven matches in an Under-10 tournament in Milan, finishing as the competition's second-top scorer.
The Fandi prospects do not end here, as mum Wendy Jacobs was quick to point out.
'You've got to watch out for Ilhan,' said the 34-year-old former model, looking stunning as ever. Indeed, Ilhan is the only kindergarten boy to play for his school's Under-9 team.
The striker is already too good for his peers, resulting in envious parents complaining that a six-year-old boy should not be allowed to play in the Under-9 team.

It may be premature to suggest world class players but with the experience that Fandi Ahmad will no doubt impart to his boys, I think anything is possible. The time may come when a Singaporean footballer lights up the Premiership and for that person to be Fandi's son would be sweet.

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