FFT’s 20 Under-20: Irfan Fandi on handling his heavy burden

As the only Singaporean on FourFourTwo's inaugural 20 Under-20 list, Irfan Fandi said he felt "honoured" by the nomination, sharing with us that this type of recognition only motivates him to work even harder... 

From a very young age, Irfan Fandi has had to cope with high expectations.

Clubs the calibre of Arsenal, Chelsea and AC Milan are said to have kept an eye on Irfan and his younger brother Ikhsan Fandi while they were just children.

I feel honoured and I feel like I've achieved something. I can only go up from here so I will continue to work hard and never give up

- Irfan

There is also the substantial figure, of course, of his famous father Fandi Ahmad, all of which has left many Singaporeans hoping Irfan could replicate or even surpass the feats achieved by the legendary striker.

To date he has handled it all with an assuredness that belies his tender years as he makes his way in the professional arena, contributing to his club side Home United last season and also earning his first senior national team appearance.

The 19-year-old was also recently voted into FourFourTwo’s inaugural '20 Under-20' list, a collection of Southeast Asia's best young players, to add to his growing collection of accolades.

And Irfan told FourFourTwo such recognition only fuels his desire to succeed and repay the faith people have shown in him.

Irfan scored four goals in seven games for Home last year

“I feel honoured and I feel like I've achieved something,” Irfan said when told of his nomination. “I can only go up from here so I will continue to work hard and never give up.”

Working hard means continuing to impress the national selectors, who called him into the senior Singapore squad last year, even when he had to enlist in National Service and miss the bulk of the S.League season.

Called into the national team squad for matches against Malaysia and Hong Kong back in September, he was given his debut when he started in an away match against the latter.

“Honestly last year was a very tough year for me as I enlisted in National Service and I had trouble going for training and missed out a lot,” he said.

“But when I had the opportunity to train I would make the most out of it. The call-up was a surprise to me because I've been out of the scene due to National Service, but also it gave me a boost to not give up."

A forward or defender with Home United, Irfan was grateful V.Sundramoorthy gave him a chance last year,  as it fulfilled a dream of representing his nation — like his father once did with such aplomb.

The promising Irfan can play as a defender or striker

In addition, it has helped him cope with the pressure of trying to live up to the public’s expectations.

“The pressure has only gone down for me after my cap because I feel like people have seen what I can do and maybe that's how I made a name for myself,” he shared.

The pressure has only gone down for me after my cap because I feel like people have seen what I can do

“I know that I'm carrying a very big name and all I can do is work hard and make my family and friends proud.

“I feel I have to live up to expectations, but at the same time I cannot please everyone. All I can do is work hard and always give my best in everything I do.“

It will be another year before Irfan completes his National Service and is able to focus on fulfilling his undoubted potential.

And he hopes he is able to continue on his footballing education overseas, as he did in Chile with Universidad Católica before returning to Singapore.

“As of now I'll be with Home United,” he said. “I don't know what the future holds, (but) I'll just hope for the best. I (still) plan to go overseas to further my football.”

Photos: S.League