Sons of guns following famous footsteps

Can you have football in your blood? FFT speaks to two Singaporean youngsters who will be hoping to emulate their famous fathers at the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden...

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As far as football pedigrees go, having fathers who played crucial roles in arguably the most-loved Singapore team ever gives you a certain amount of street cred.

Marc Ryan Tan, 13, and Ilhan Fandi Ahmad, 12, are both part of the F-17 Academy that will be contesting the annual Gothia Cup competition.

While there's still some way to go before they can even think about making their own names, the sons of Steven Tan and Fandi Ahmad will be hoping to impress in a competition sometimes referred to as the "World Youth Cup".

Open to youth teams from around the globe, the tournament has seen the likes of Alan Shearer, Andrea Pirlo and Xabi Alonso participate as youngsters.

While the Singaporean duo can only dream of reaching similar heights, there was no small amount of bravado when FFT talked to them at their final training session before flying off this week.

Steven Tan and Marc Ryan Tan. Photo: Weixiang Lim

"I hope I will be good enough to play the game professionally," says Marc, a Secondary 1 student at the Singapore Sports School who is a flying winger just like his dad used to be in the Singapore FA team that won the Malaysian League and Cup double in 1994.

"My parents were initially against it, they felt it would be difficult for me to make a living as a footballer in Singapore and I would be better off concentrating on my studies and pursuing other interests. But my enthusiasm won them over and they have given me their blessings for now.

"My goal is to play for a club overseas which is why I chose to enroll in boarding school at the Singapore Sports School, as it will give me greater focus. I also take my studies very seriously as I want to keep my parent’s minds at ease. It is important to have something to fall back on because the career of a footballer is very short."

This will be Marc's second Gothia Cup appearance after scoring an amazing 17 goals for his team last year. The 13-year-old's eye for goal has not gone unnoticed, as well as his pace and dribbling ability.

Ilhan Fandi and Fandi Ahmad. Photo: Weixiang Lim

Lots will be expected from Ilhan too, but that is part and parcel of carrying his famous father's name. With older brothers Irfan and Ikhsan already breaking into the national set-up, the 12-year-old knows that there will be plenty of interest in his development.

The Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) Primary 6 pupil scored 16 goals in last year's Gothia Cup, but plays as an attacking midfielder rather than a striker like his father. Besides good vision and an eye for the killer pass, Ilhan is something of a dead-ball specialist too.

"I see myself more as a creator, assisting my team-mates," he says. "It doesn't matter how many goals I score this time, I just hope to do my best and help the team win."

Interview: Weixiang Lim. Words: Zee Ko.