Fandi's Dutch legacy inspires Irfan, Ikhsan
Singapore legend still remembered by Groningen fans - after 35 years
It has been over 30 years since Fandi Ahmad starred for FC Groningen, but fans of the Dutch club have long memories.
Earlier this month, Fandi's two oldest sons - Irfan, 20 and Ikhsan, 18 - savoured their father's legacy while on a 10-day trial with the Groningen Under-23 team, with Fandi accompanying them.
Before a national team training session last week, Irfan told The New Paper how Groningen fans still remember their father, who played for the club from 1983 to 1985 - and famously scored against Inter Milan's Walter Zenga in a Uefa Cup match.
Said Irfan: "Once we were walking back after training in the middle of nowhere, and suddenly, two people cycled by and said hi.
"I don't even know how they recognised my dad just from the back, especially since it's been so long since he played there."
It was a surreal sight Irfan would treasure - and one, he admits, which inspires him.
"Of course, I'm happy to see that people over there remember. I feel honoured to have gone there and it'd be even better if I could get to play there."
When told about this by TNP before last Friday's training session with Singapore's Under-23 team, the affable Fandi smiled.
On his recent trip, the Singapore U-23 coach said: "It brought back memories and I think I left a big impression on them because the fans still remember very well."
For Fandi, it was also a refreshing walk down memory lane.
He said: "Back then, this fan named Jack Suiver lived close to me. After training, he would throw stones at my window, gesturing for me to have a kick-about on the streets.
"This time, we actually revisited the two lampposts we had used as goalposts back then. And we played there again."
"It's not a big road, but we still had to stop playing from time to time whenever a bus passes by," he added with a chuckle.
Amid his reminiscing, Fandi, 55, was also optimistic about his sons' trials. He said: "They passed the fitness, strength and technical tests and the head coach is quite happy.
"But we will wait and see as Groningen also have to consider regulations regarding youth player salary caps and their non-European Union status."
When asked about the prospect of them playing in England, he revealed that similar obstacles had arisen.
"We tried to arrange trials with Leeds United, but it's become tougher since they don't have a British or European passport."
Irfan added: "Beyond Groningen, Bangkok (Glass) are a big option, as are Chile (with Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica). But if all goes well with Groningen, I'd probably join them in July during the transfer window."
Beyond witnessing the hero's welcome his father had received in Groningen, Irfan shared his takeaways from Dutch football.
He said: "They think differently because of the way they were trained since young. Here, we tend to crowd to the ball but there, they spread out and play.
"The coaches would keep shouting so we'd focus on passing and moving, something which I often forget.
"Overall, it was good as I became more confident after seeing improvement in my technical ability. And I hope to continue playing the way I did there in Singapore."