Why Fandi Ahmad is at risk of becoming Singapore’s Bobby Moore

Fandi Ahmad and V. Sundramoorthy

Once again, the Fandi ‘stay or go’ debate returns as Pahang and the Football Association of Singapore compete for his services, but there should be no debate. Unlike England’s Moore, Singapore should utilise its greatest ambassador now, argues Neil Humphreys

He’s far too humble to recognise such a comparison, but Fandi Ahmad is Singapore’s version of Bobby Moore.

Fandi is a sporting giant whose fame transcends the local game itself, a Singaporean footballer without peer and a gentleman beyond compare.

He’s also a travelling legend in search of a permanent home – at home.

Malaysia admires him, Indonesia respects him and Groningen remembers him. Singapore, on the other hand, still isn’t entirely sure what to do

Malaysia admires him, Indonesia respects him and Groningen remembers him. Singapore, on the other hand, still isn’t entirely sure what to do with its finest football son.

After Moore died, English football gave him a couple of statues, one outside Wembley, the other outside Upton Park.

The monuments to England’s only World Cup-winning captain were as much a tribute to the immaculate defender as they were an acknowledgement of guilt.

When he was alive, Moore was treated appallingly, forced to eke out a living with local radio stations and ghost-written columns in soft-porn tabloids.

While Pele and Franz Beckenbauer were revered in Brazil and Germany respectively, taking up every professional and ambassadorial role that their schedules could accommodate, Moore was shunned.

Shortly before he died in 1993, the hero of ‘66 could be found sitting in a freezing stand, eating a bag of chips whilst providing radio commentary on defensive journeymen not worthy of the great man’s oxygen.

Moore holding the World Cup, won back in 1966

The English Football Association, the British media and any number of corporate sponsors never tried to find a role worthy of Moore’s resume. They’ve spent the last 20 years trying to make amends.

If Fandi doesn’t walk the same bread line, he warily treads a similar path.

The latest “stay or go” story playing out in the media stutters like a broken record, a familiar soundtrack to an icon’s career.

Fandi’s current contract with the FAS ends in December and Pahang reportedly offered their former striker a lucrative deal

Fandi’s current contract with the FAS ends in December and Pahang reportedly offered their former striker a lucrative deal.

So the FAS supposedly returned with a long-term deal, one that dovetails with Fandi’s plans to oversee youth development until the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

The improved FAS offer remains on the table.

And here we are. Stalemate. It’s as you were and over to you, Fandi.

At this juncture, it’s only fair to reiterate that Fandi’s relationship with the FAS stands in stark contrast to English football’s disgraceful handling of Moore.

The late England captain once famously sent an application for the national job. The FA suits didn’t even bother to reply.

But Fandi is currently in his second spell with the FAS, assisting V. Sundramoorthy after leading LionsXII to a Malaysian FA Cup victory last year.

He also led the Young Lions to a couple of third-placed finishes – their highest placing to date – and steered SAFFC to two S.League titles.

Fandi's son Irfan is making his way in the pro ranks. Photo: Weixiang Lim/FFT

Both the FAS and Fandi are right to mull their respective options, particularly as technical director Michel Sablon is implementing the country’s youth development plan. The Belgian already has Richard Tardy as head coach of the national youth teams.

In a literal sense, the FAS cannot offer a position that is currently occupied and can legitimately argue that this isn’t the first time Fandi has considered (and occasionally taken) more lucrative coaching packages across the border.

Similarly, Fandi has many rice bowls to fill in that bustling household of rising footballers and promising performers. His first priority is to feed his family rather than nurture a nation’s talents.

But it’s Fandi Ahmad.

[Concluded on the next page]