Fandi's sons, Irfan and Ikhsan, set for trials with Leeds
Fandi's sons could join Young Lions next year to facilitate overseas moves
Irfan Fandi, 20, and his 18-year-old brother Ikhsan are set to snub the advances of S.League and regional football clubs, as they attempt to carve out a career in Europe next year.
The Straits Times understands that the sons of local icon Fandi Ahmad could attend trials with Leeds United in March, a month after they complete their national service.
Leeds, three-time English champions (1969, 1974 and 1992), are currently seventh in English football's second tier.
They are owned by Andrea Radrizzani, co-founder of MP & Silva and founder of Eleven Sports, both of which have offices here.
Irfan, who has 11 caps and one international goal, said: "I feel confident about showing what I'm capable of as a defender, after making a smooth conversion from being a forward.
"It's a form of recognition when a top Thai team like Bangkok Glass are interested to sign me. But my dream is to play in Europe."
Only one Singaporean player has plied his trade in the English leagues - Daniel Bennett, who played for Wrexham in the lower tiers during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.
The biggest barrier to entry to England is its set of work permit rules, which is one of the strictest in Europe.
One plan is to sign them with the Young Lions so that it would be easier for them to try out in Europe.Fandi Ahmad, on plans for his sons Irfan and Ikhsan next season
Former Fifa intermediary and ex-Singapore international R. Sasikumar said: "In the beginning, it will be almost impossible for our players like Irfan to sign for English clubs, and it is not because of the lack of ability.
"Players who want to play in England have to come from the top 50 national teams in the Fifa rankings. They also have to play a certain percentage of international games.
"And that's just one of many criteria. Those who don't satisfy these will be reviewed case by case."
Singapore are ranked 170th, and the Republic's players seeking a move to England will need to feature in at least 75 per cent of international fixtures - a criterion Irfan has met.
For the likes of Irfan, Sasi said "there's still hope".
He explained: "If English clubs see value in a player, they can still place him in a feeder team in Belgium or Scandinavia and if he proves himself there, they have a better case to apply for a work permit in England."
Fandi is aware of the challenges standing in his sons' way.
He is also exploring possibilities in other European leagues such as those in Scandinavia.
The national assistant coach, who will take charge of the Young Lions in the new S.League season, said: "Both Irfan and Ikhsan already have offers from clubs in the region but we want to be fair to these teams, and let them know they are trying to make it in Europe and could leave for trials any time from March to May.
"One plan is to sign them with the Young Lions so that it would be easier for them to try out in Europe."