HIS father is the legendary Fandi Ahmad. Ikhsan Fandi (above) has now stepped on the regional stage as a rare breed of teenage Singaporeans to play professional football in Europe.
The 19-year-old signed a two-year deal with Norway second-tier club Raufoss IL to become the first Lion in 30 years to join a European team, and the third after his father Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundram Moorthy.
But his father’s famous jersey number ‘17’ is not what he wants. He wants to earn jersey number ‘9’ simply because he was born on April 9 1999.
“My aim is No. 9. It is currently worn by my team-mate Anton (Henningsson), but I want to work towards that role as the leading striker,” he says in an interview with The Straits Times. “The No. 9 is also special to me because I was born on April 9, 1999. But I know I am a new and young player at Raufoss, and I will work my socks off to get to where I want.”
Ikhsan knows he will always be under tremendous pressure being Fandi’s son, as football fans expect him to aspire for ‘17’ as it has been synonymous with his iconic father, popularly known as Singapore’s favourite football son, who thrilled South-east Asia with his scoring exploits wearing the fabled number on his back.
Ikhsan, Fandi’s second son, has the raw talent to follow the footsteps of his father as he has scored five goals in 12 internationals; something no other Lion scored more last year.
He is hungry for success. He wants to prove that he can be a football prodigy, away from the shadows of his father. And beneath his baby-face exterior is a steely single-mindedness to prove everyone wrong.
“Since young, we have always felt that pressure. People expect us to be as good as our father. But my dad always tells us to be ourselves, express ourselves on the field and show people what we can do,” says Ikhsan, who has two younger brothers Ilhan, 16, and Iryan, 12. His elder brother, Irfan, 21, is a regular in the Lions team.
“We cannot control what others say, but we can stay focused and work hard to achieve our dreams. Mine are to play top-level football in Europe for a long time and contribute to the national team.”
DREAM OF FANDI AHMAD
For the record, Fandi, lived the professional dream 36 years ago with Holland Division One team FC Groningen as the first Singaporean to play in Europe.
He knows the road less travelled will not be easy and has advised Ikhsan to face the acid test, holding his head high. Fandi says: “The food and intense training sessions are different from what we are used to in Singapore.
“There were also no Internet or video calls so it was tough to be alone in Holland, where few people spoke English then. But Ikhsan has experience living and playing overseas in Chile with his brother in 2014 and 2015, which will be an advantage.
“It is important to stay focused and show his character and ability to challenge for playing time. When he gets the opportunity, he must make a right impression.”
For Ikhsan, the right jersey is more important: Jersey number ‘9’. Simply because he was born on April 9 1999 and wants to stamp his own brand, away from his heroic father.