Interviews

Fandi calls on Young Lions to entertain; confirms Irfan and Ikhsan set for Dutch stint

The last time Fandi Ahmad was in charge of the Young Lions, he led them to two third-placed finishes in the S.League during his three campaigns in charge - their best-ever showing. While the developmental side has struggled in recent times, Fandi tells FourFourTwo he wants the team to play to entertain in 2018...

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

"These boys need to be given the freedom to express themselves on the pitch and that’s what I want to give them,” said the former national skipper.

“If we harp too much on results and the league position, it’s unnecessary pressure on young players and I don’t want that. I’ve told the boys that they must go out there and enjoy their football firstly.

I want people to watch the boys, who are essentially students, and go back having enjoyed the game

- Fandi Ahmad

“I want people to watch the boys, who are essentially students, and go back having enjoyed the game.

“It’s not going to be easy but we will try our best and as long as the boys give their all, the results will follow."

The Young Lions only won one game last season, finishing bottom of the domestic league in 2016 and 2017.

Midfielder Joshua Pereira, former Home United defender R. Aaravin and attacking midfielder Hami Syahin will be key players for his squad in the coming season noted Fandi, but so too will his sons Irfan and Ikhsan.

Irfan, 20, and Ikhsan, 18, will head for trials with Dutch Eredivisie club FC Groningen in March, but could still feature for the Young Lions at some point this season. They will also train with Groningen's youth team.

“The both of them are of course key players for our team, and depending on how it goes for them in Holland, we will have to see when they will be back,” Fandi said.

If they are not here during the league games, then the others must step up and show what they can do

- Fandi Ahmad

“They both will be back for our international tournaments and the SEA Games but if they are not here during the league games, then the others must step up and show what they can do.” 

It won't be easy for Irfan and Ikhsan to follow in the footsteps of their father, who played for the Dutch side between 1983 to 1985.

“It all depends on how fired up they’ll be when they get there,” Fandi said.

“They’ve just finished their NS (National Service) and in the next few weeks they really need to push themselves in terms of their fitness. 

“They have got to adapt fast and be very fit to compete with the European players there because it can get really physical and if they want to get a contract, they must be able to compete in every area.”

Photos: Weixiang Lim/FFT