Ilhan the latest Fandi in the Lions’ den
Attacker, 18, follows in siblings Irfan and Ikhsan's footsteps with first national call-up
The Lions' pride welcomed a new fledgling Fandi into its den as Ilhan Fandi took part in his first national team training session at Geylang Field yesterday morning.
The 18-year-old is the third of local football legend Fandi Ahmad's sons to receive a national call-up, with striker Ikhsan, 21, and defender Irfan, 23, both first-team regulars.
The older siblings are not part of national coach Tatsuma Yoshida's latest 24-man squad, which comprises only local-based players.
Ikhsan plies his trade for Norwegian second-tier side FK Jerv while his oldest brother, who is a centre-back for BG Pathum United, became the first Singaporean to win Thai League 1 earlier this month.
On his maiden call-up, Young Lions attacker Ilhan said: "Honestly, I wasn't expecting it. But obviously a good feeling. This is just the start for me...
"Me, Ikhsan and Irfan always have that thinking that one day, all of us are going to be in the same team and last time (at) Young Lions, we've already been training together.
"But now, (with the) national team, it is a bit tougher. Both of them are already quite regular in the team, I just need to start working my socks off and try and get in the team."
Should that dream materialise, the Fandis would emulate another storied band of brothers, the Quahs.
For four decades since 1952, when Kim Beng made his bow, to 1983, when Kim Song exited the international stage, the first family of Singapore football had six brothers donning the national jersey, with Kim Choon, Kim Swee, Kim Siak and Kim Lye being the others.
There was at least one Quah representative in the Lions' ranks at any one time, and even a trio of them in the national set-up during several junctures.
Their sisters Theresa, Doreen and Rosa also featured for the women's national team, while youngest brother Kim Tiong was part of a 4x400m gold-winning team at the 1975 South-east Asian Peninsular Games.
While Fandi's offspring would be hard-pressed to match the Quahs, their drive offers hope that they can be stalwarts for the Lions in the coming years.
When asked about the prospect of teaming up with his brothers in national colours, Ilhan said: "It's just another step closer but obviously it's not done yet... The most important thing is I can't slack just because I've been called up...
"Even if your brothers are in the same team, football is football. There's no friends, you know, if there's a tackle to be made, you have to make it. Just because they are (your) brothers, it doesn't matter."
The wiry 18-year-old, who is doing his national service, has a goal and assist from his three Singapore Premier League appearances this season and is already sporting a different physique from before he enlisted in April 2020.
Before enlisting, he tipped the scales at 62kg and stood at 1.78m. He has since shot up to 1.82m and gained 9kg, a result of his siblings and father's advice to bulk up.
The transformation is more impressive considering he faced growth hormone deficiency issues before reaching puberty. At 10, he was just 1.32m and 32kg.
While Ilhan - who Fandi has described as the most technically gifted of his sons - has previously said his preferred position is as a No. 10, Yoshida sees him as striking competition for Ikhsan - who has cemented his place as the Lions' first-choice forward.
"Compared to his brother Ikhsan, I don't know who is better. I don't know now but maybe we'll see good competition (between them)," said the Japanese, who is running the rule over his squad for the first time since last March.
"Ilhan is just 18 years old, now there is just the potential and that is not enough. Ikhsan has the experience, but Ilhan is still a young boy. But he can be a help for us and hopefully (he can add the experience)."
Should Yoshida deem that Ilhan has gained the requisite experience by the time Asia's World Cup 2022 qualifiers resume in June, the sight of three Fandis in red could channel sepia-tinted memories of when the Quah brothers thrilled Singaporeans like no other.