The eldest son of legendary Singapore striker Fandi Ahmad wants to step out of his father’s shadows after breaking into the national team...
When Fandi Ahmad made his international debut back in 1979 at 17 years, three months and 23 days, he became Singapore's youngest-ever full international – a record Hariss Harun would break in 2007 – and Fandi went on to score 55 goals in 101 appearances.
While Irfan Fandi will not be able to match his father’s feat, he could still continue his legacy by donning the national stripes at the age of 19 years and almost two months as Singapore play two international friendlies in the month of October.
To make things sweeter, his debut could come against Malaysia – a country his father was both feared and idolised in during his playing days – on home ground in the Causeway Challenge on Friday night.
Irfan's call-up came as a surprise to many, himself included, particularly as he has not played many minutes since enlisting for National Service (NS) in early April.
"It's quite shocking for me because I've been out for so long," he told FourFourTwo after the Lions' centralised training at Geylang Field. "But call-ups are call-ups, so I just have to do my best to show my worth."
While growing up, Irfan readily admitted that he was subjected to enormous expectations from the public due to his father’s legendary status.
But after earning his first-ever call-up, Irfan is now bent on breaking away from the ‘Fandi’s son’ tagline and being a star in his own right.
"When I was younger, there's a lot of pressure and it was quite hard for me," he shared. "But now I'm just focusing on how I play and how I train so that I can be successful as well.
"My dad simply told me that I have to work really hard in training (with the national team) because everyone's fighting for their places in the first 11 and that's what I've been doing.
"It's been really tough because I haven't been training for a long time, but there's no time to waste and I have to work even harder than normal to get back to my peak level."
Acknowledging that the mental aspects of his game has improved through NS, a much more matured Irfan is looking forward to shackling Malaysia if he gets to play on Friday night.
"Physically, NS is so-so, but mentally, it has hit me and made me stronger," said the former Universidad Catolica trainee. "That can only be good for my development.
"I've played against Harimau Muda in the S.League, but this is a totally different game and it's going to be even tougher, but I welcome the challenge."
"I've watched the tournament a few times as a fan and I can see that it's really competitive," he said.
"The last one in 2014, I was away in Chile (with Universidad Catolica) but I was still following the live updates on Twitter. It's my target to make it there and I can't wait for it."