His ambition to carve out a career in European football was never hidden from the public. Irfan Fandi always dreamt about that taking that next step and establishing himself among Europe’s elite.
Son of Singapore’s greatest footballing son Fandi Ahmad, Irfan was touted as one of Singapore’s brightest footballing talents. Physically dominant yet not without technical skill, he is a player whose potential knows no boundaries.
But little did he realise it would be him who would set those boundaries towards achieving his fullest potential. Receiving an opportunity to have trials with Portugese club Braga, which most Southeast Asian footballers would die for, he impressed in Portugal and was subsequently offered a contract.
Now for a footballer who looks to compete at a higher level, the right thing to do would be to accept the offer by the top Portugese club. Instead the 21-year-old produced a baffling moment where he rejected the offer.
Irfan then went on to state that the reasons behind his decision were due to a breakdown in contract negotiations and struggles with loneliness. By making such a move Irfan has followed in his father’s footsteps when the latter rejected the opportunity to play with Ajax Amsterdam, a decision that till today has rippling effect on Singapore’s footballing landscape.
Significantly Irfan’s decision highlights everything that is wrong with Singapore football today. His baffling decision underscores a mental weakness in our players. It is that unwillingness to move out of their comfort zone which has contributed to the dramatic drop of levels that has plagued the game here.
Portugal is a top footballing nation by any standards. This is a country which has produced the likes of Rui Costa, Luis Figo, Eusebio and Cristiano Ronaldo. It is a league which is tactically refined and offers Irfan a footballing lesson which he is devoid of in Singapore to take him to a higher level.
Indeed the Singapore public will now view Irfan in a different light and will start to question his credentials as to whether he can be a true footballing champion. As the legendary boxer Muhd Ali once stated:
“Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
At the moment it must be said that Irfan’s will is not stronger than his skill.