Fandi: 1980s team best Singapore has seen

Singaporean football legend Fandi Ahmad says he is grateful for the longevity of his playing career, which spanned three decades from 1978 to 1999.

The former Singapore forward was picked as No. 1 in FourFourTwo's list of Top 20 Singapore Players of All Time.

“It's an honour for us to be picked amongst the best 20 players, but I'm sure there are many other good players as well," he told FFT.

Fandi also spoke about the many different players he had the opportunity to come across during his professional career.

“I’m just very lucky to be able to play with three different generations,” he said.

“It’s an honour to serve the country and I had a good time in the national team for many years; I played with some of the best players.

“Before the 1994 Dream Team, there is the 1980s where there’s the like of Edmund Wee, David Lee, (R) Suriamurthi, Terry (Pathmanathan) and the Quah brothers (Kim Song and Kim Lye). I played both with them and against them.”

The former national striker's career started in Singapore in the late '70s, but he had featured for the likes of Dutch club FC Groningen and Greek club OFI Crete by the time he hung up his boots right before the turn of the millenium.

Given the amount of top-quality players which he played alongside with, Fandi was grateful for the guidance from senior players when he was just breaking through at international level, including one who is placed just below him in the #FFTSG20 list.

“It’s a privilege to have played with Dollah (Kassim),” he said.

“He was a really skilful player. As senior players, he and a few others like Hasli Ibrahim, Zainal Abideen and Mat Noh gave me good guidance and imparted some knowledge to me when I was still young.”

While he did not get to play with legendary forward Majid Ariff, who is No. 4 on the list, Fandi revealed that Majid was a player whom he looked up to early in his career.

“I trained under Majid when I was playing for the Singapore Malays in the 1970s,” he recalled.

“I was 15 to 16 years old then and I was really honoured to train under him because he was the only Singaporean who was selected in the Asian All-Stars side in 1996. I still train with him on a personal basis.”

Having featured in three different eras, the current LionsXII coach felt that the '80s saw the finest generation of players that Singapore football has ever produced.

“Yes, we had the Dream Team In 1994, but we had a better team in the 1980s,” he said.

“We had better players all-round. It’s just that the other countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar were much stronger during that period.”

Coming back to the present, Fandi believed two players of this current generation would come close to making a list of the top 20 Singapore Players of all time in the future.

“Maybe Shahril and Safuwan,” he said when asked to reveal who they were.

“These are two best players from this generation. Shahril got the brain and he’s a thinking player. In football, it’s not just about physique.

“Safuwan has the ability and strength; he can jump, shoot and even score goals. But as a defender, he needs to build up physically.

“It’s good that he’s still young and have the time to get the experience. One day he will be the captain and carry the team.”