The current Johor coach and former Singapore forward touched on his sons future but was slightly cagey as he faced the press given recent reports that he labelled as 'rubbish'Undeniably Singapore’s most accomplished footballer, Fandi has had his fair share of success in Europe, playing for FC Groningen in the Netherlands. His most glorious moment came when he scored against Inter Milan in the UEFA Cup second-round match.
And having left for Europe at a tender age of 19, his experiences in playing at the highest level in Europe will come in very useful now, especially when his own two sons, Irfan and Ikhsan, are on a stint with Spanish club, Hercules.
“I’m very happy for them because they were the ones who wanted it badly; so now they have the chance, and it’s important that they keep focused,” beamed Fandi.
Nonetheless, the concerned father of five emphasised the importance of education for his boys: “For me, education is very important and we have looked at several schools such as King’s College and in Alicante for them as well.”
"Irfan already has a place, Ikhsan is on the waiting list. They can only take 25 students per class and we're waiting. But at end of this month they are going for the test and we should get some news before Easter."
On sharing his advice and experiences with them, he admits that the boys have it slightly easier because they have each other.
“Whatever I’ve gone through, I try to pass on some advice and knowledge about how to handle situations, especially in adapting to the weather and language,” he added.
He also recalled how it was difficult for him to adapt in the Netherlands, particularly in communicating with his teammates, which is why his boys are placed in classes to learn Spanish, as he added: “It’s a lot easier for them now as more countries speak English. The most important thing is to speak the language to communicate with the team."
“When I was alone, I felt homesick and thought about home because I had no one there with me. But they have blended in very well with the local boys and that’s very important."
Fandi revealed that his sons will be staying with family friends near the training centre as he did not want them to travel too much on their own.
When pressed on the looming National Service commitments for his sons, Fandi decided to stay tight-lipped, citing recent reports from some quarters of the media which resulted in a war of words between the former Singapore international and the Football Association of Singapore.
"I don't want anymore scandal with FAS! You all write rubbish!" said Fandi in half-jest and half-exasperation.
But he did reveal that it was still two years away from the time his oldest son could sign a professional contract with the club, a scenario he admits is still a long shot given the competitiveness of the youth system in Europe.
With both his sons showing immense promise on the field, Fandi also touched on the possibility of them making appearances for the Singapore youth teams when they return home during their break from June to September, a period that also coincides with the Lion City Cup and the Asian Youth Games.
"I'm sure he'd like to represent Singapore," said Fandi of Irfan.
"But I can't force anyone even if he is my son. But if he wants to play and he is good enough to play then sure. I want everybody to be fair, this is Singapore. The rules are that everybody should be the same.
"If they think he is good enough to play then take him. If they don't then it's not a problem."
Althought he was reluctant to broach the subject, Fandi admitted that National Service was an issue but did not wish to comment on it, instead jokingly deferring all related questions to 'the smart people there'.
"Don't put me in that situation again!" he added.
"Because if I fight, I'll fight till the end and I don't want to fight! I just want to keep a low profile and relax!"