Interviews

SEA Games: ‘Call me Ikhsan, not Fandi’s son’

Sick of being referred to as 'Fandi Ahmad's (second) son', Ikhsan Fandi tells FourFourTwo that he wants to make it big on his own merit - starting from the upcoming SEA Games...  

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The second son of Singapore legendary forward Fandi Ahmad and South African former model Wendy Jacobs, Ikhsan naturally attracted attention from a very young age.

Indeed, it is difficult to find any article online that does not mention his parentage. The 18-year-old understands the widespread interest comes with carrying the Fandi surname, but believes it is time that he stepped out of his iconic dad’s shadows.

Sometimes people just like ‘eh, that’s Fandi Ahmad’s son’ but they don’t know my name

“I’ve gotten used to people waiting to take pictures with my dad and us (him and elder brother Irfan Fandi) in the streets,” he shares with FourFourTwo.

“I appreciate and understand where they’re coming from. My dad was a big player back then so they want to take pictures with me, the son. I’m quite happy to take pictures and sign autographs.

“But sometimes people just like ‘eh, that’s Fandi Ahmad’s son’ but they don’t know my name. I understand that but I would rather they just call me by my own name, Ikhsan. It’s OK for now; maybe soon, in the future they will know my name.”  

A footballing education away from home

While Ikhsan is still very much a teenager, he already has considerable overseas experience under his belt.

Since the age of nine, he and elder brother Irfan have been chasing their dreams of following in their dad’s footsteps – with trials and training stints at European giants like Arsenal, Chelsea, AC Milan and Valencia failing to work out.

Ikhsan wants to create his own name

Fandi was, of course, well known for scoring for FC Groningen against Inter Milan in a UEFA Cup tie in 1983 and was inducted into the Dutch club’s Hall of Fame for his credible displays.

Finishing top scorer in the 2012 Centre of Excellence Under-14 tournament with 16 goals in 18 games for the National Football Academy (NFA), Ikhsan got to train with Spanish second division club Hercules CF the following year but left after three months due to his failure to secure a visa.

The youngster would eventually secure a two-year contract with Chilean top-flight outfit Universidad Catolica in 2014 after a brief period with A.C Barnechea – which plays in the same division — while studying in a local school in Santiago.

“I was with the under-19s and it was a really good experience,” recalled Ikhsan. “It’s really competitive and aggressive over there. All of them are really focused in their training and I really improved on and off the field in my time there.”

Hat-trick against Liverpool

Ikhsan would duly showcase his progress as a player when he came back to Singapore in August 2015 to play in the Lion City Cup and duly lit up the competition with a perfect hat-trick against the Liverpool Under-15s.

Down 3-0 after 34 minutes, the explosive forward came into life in the second half and scored with his left foot, right foot and then with a header all within 10 minutes to push the game into penalties.

While the Singapore under-16s would eventually lose 5-3 in the penalty shootout, his exploits left an indelible impact on the local fans who had barely seen him play previously.

Ikhsan then joined S.League giants Home United along with Irfan the following January and featured in a handful of games for the Protectors before enlisting for National Service (NS) three months later.

Since then, he has been juggling NS duties and football trainings – either with the Garena Young Lions or the Singapore under-22s – which stretches out his daily schedule.

Undoubtedly, it has stifled his football development a little but Ikhsan – currently an infantry trooper based in Maju Camp –  insists that he has no complaints to serve the rite of passage which every Singaporean male has got to go through.

“It can be quite tiring and taxing on myself to work then come training,” he shared. “But that’s the only way to get it done if I want to succeed as a football player.

“I just got to do this for six more months before I ORD (operationally-ready date) and I have to thank my officers who have been quite supportive of this.”  

Looking ahead to SEA Games

It has not been all smooth for Ikhsan as he had to miss the first few games of the season. However, he buckled down to earn a starting spot and is a now a key member of Richard Tardy’s Singapore under-22s.

He has since gone from strength to strength, breaking his scoring duck via a penalty conversion in a 1-0 win over their India counterparts before hitting two scorchers from distance in a 4-1 thumping of Brunei in the AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers in July.

“I’m really happy to be in this team despite having very little time to get back my fitness,” he said. “The penalty against India gave me the motivation I needed because I haven’t been scoring for so long.

“The two goals against Brunei in Myanmar as well, these little motivations help me a lot in terms of preparing for the SEA Games.”

While the Young Lions failed to progress out of a group consisting of Myanmar, Australia and Brunei, Ikhsan is optimistic that he and his teammates can put up a good showing in the upcoming SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

Singapore have never won the gold medal in the biennial regional competition.

One of the most exciting attacking talent Singapore has seen in years

“It wasn’t easy playing against two physical teams in Myanmar and Australia but we worked really hard and tried our best,” said Ikhsan. “We showed it in our last game against Brunei.

“We still have a lot of things to work on but I’m sure we can do it. I know that expectations are very high when it comes to the SEA Games and we have not won many games this year, but the mood in the team is still quite high.

On a personal level, Ikhsan’s preparations have been aided by none other than his own dad, who has a big influence on his career from a young age.

“We’re going for a training camp in Perth (from August 2 to 9) which everyone is excited about. I’m sure everyone will be fully focused by the time SEA Games come, including myself to be involved at such a young age.”

On a personal level, Ikhsan’s preparations have been aided by none other than his own dad, who has a big influence on his career from a young age.

“My dad’s been very supportive of me and my brothers playing football,” he said. “He hasn’t actually been my coach in a team before, but he’s always up there watching our matches.

“After every game which he watches, he will always tell me what I could have done better as a striker, how I can beat my defenders and point out the things which I should do in the future – all these little, little things.

“Every time in the car on the way home, he ‘confirm’ tell me something! But these are stuff that help me and I try to pay attention to all these little details to help me in my game.”

With his elder brother Irfan now a first teamer for club and country, Ikhsan wants to show that he can do the same too.

Irfan is already a Singapore international

"Last time we always fight lah!” he shared candidly. “We fight over the normal brothers’ stuff, but we live together and that’s how we got closer.

“There’s no rivalry between us actually, but of course we both want to show what we got. Who’s the better player, it’s for the fans and coaches to decide. For us, we just play our game and enjoy football, that’s the most important thing.”  

The world is certainly at Ikhsan’s feet as he set his sights on two big goals after the completion of the SEA Games and National Service.

“Firstly, I want to get into the national team,” he declared, “I don’t think now’s the right time, but probably one year after I finish NS, I will be ready physically and mentally for the challenge. I need to get back that explosive speed and gain a bit more strength first.

“Secondly of course I hope I can play abroad, that’s the target – probably somewhere in Asia or Europe, or everywhere football takes me. My parents have sacrificed so much in terms of money and effort so I really want to repay them.”

Photos: FAS