Irfan gets advice from dad
Irfan Fandi's making progress as he moves from attack to defence
SINGAPORE v MALAYSIA
(Tonight, 8pm, Singtel TV Ch 109 - Eleven)
At a training session at Geylang Field on Wednesday, a corner kick was whipped into the box for experienced Lions Baihakki Khaizan (1.9m tall) and Daniel Bennett (1.84m).
But neither managed to get on the end of the delivery. Instead, rookie Irfan Fandi rose highest to head the ball clear.
The powerfully built Irfan, the eldest son of local icon Fandi Ahmad, is only 19 but already stands at 1.87m.
The Home United player was invited to train with the Lions back in March, but his call-up to the squad for tonight's Causeway Challenge match against rivals Malaysia at the National Stadium is his first official one.
Irfan told The New Paper: "Compared to the last time, I think this is much more intense.
"Everyone is fighting for his place at (next month's) AFF Suzuki Cup. It's very competitive and everyone gives 100 per cent."
TNP PHOTO: JEREMY LONG
Obviously, he has been given advice by his father, who is assistant to national coach V Sundramoorthy.
Fandi said: "I told him: 'Once you are here, make your presence felt'.
"I made sure he knows he has to work hard, and most importantly, he must be willing to learn and listen to instructions from the coach and the senior players."
Sundram is happy with what he has seen from the youngster.
"His main attribute is a strong physical presence in defence," said the coach who celebrated his 51st birthday yesterday.
"He's good in the air and, with more games under his belt, he can be one for the future."
Irfan started off as a striker, like his father, but has been playing more as a centre defender in the last 12 months.
His aerial ability has come in handy on either end of the pitch.
Because of his father, Irfan's progress over the years has been of particular interest.
In 2013, he represented the national Under-16 team in the Lion City Cup, scoring against English giants Arsenal and German outfit Eintracht Frankfurt, despite the Cubs failing to progress from the group stage.
Last year, he was part of the Singapore Under-23 team that crashed out of the SEA Games on home soil at the first stage.
Fandi believes there is some way yet for Irfan to go.
"He needs to learn by playing more alongside experienced players, and he needs to be a bit more vocal," said the former national skipper.
BH FILE PHOTO
"It's not easy to change positions from striker to defender, but he must quickly adapt to the system and intensity.
"He's still inexperienced at this level but Sundram received good feedback from the Under-21 coach Richard Tardy, who said Irfan did well in (an U-21 friendly in) Iran.
"That's why Sundram wanted to play him (in a closed-door, non 'A' International match) against Cambodia last week."
Irfan is more than happy to bide his time and learn from defenders like Baihakki (125 caps), Bennett (126 caps) and Mustafic Fahrudin (79 caps).
"In the past few training sessions, I've mainly partnered Farra and it's very easy to play with him because he's so experienced," said the youngster. "I haven't played with Bai or Bennett, but I can see from training they're very fierce and aggressive.
"I just want to work really hard and show I can play in both defence and up front."
He needs to learn by playing more alongside experienced players, and he needs to be a bit more vocal.
— Fandi Ahmad on his son Irfan