Irfan and Ikhsan face tough time at Braga trials
Irfan Fandi, 20, and brother Ikhsan, 19, are edging closer to a dream move to Europe, but tough competition awaits.
The siblings, who play for the Singapore Premier League team Young Lions, could be vying with more than 50 footballers of various nationalities for a contract with Portuguese top-tier side Sporting Braga when they head over for trials later this month.
It will be a familiar setting for Irfan, who was called back for a second trial after impressing during a two-week stint at the club last month.
Recalling his experience, Irfan said: "The team are quite big and there are a lot of players with a lot of rotation between the first team, the B team and the reserve squad.
"One day you can be first team, one day you can be reserve team, so it's just how you perform and when you're good, you just go up."
To prepare for the upcoming test, the 1.89m-tall defender, who also had a week-long training attachmeet at Leeds United last month, has been doing extra weight training in the gym to strengthen even further.
Ikhsan, who did not travel with his brother last month due to an ankle injury, will be hoping to return to full fitness before he flies, which could be as soon as next week.
All signs indicate good progress, with the teenage forward scoring two goals in four appearances since his return from injury.
Said Ikhsan: "I think I'm ready and I'm excited."
The siblings' European dream has seen them venture across the continent in recent years, with trials and training stints at European giants like Arsenal, Chelsea, AC Milan and Valencia.
Irfan, who turns 21 next Monday - the same age his father Fandi Ahmad was when he joined Dutch Eredivisie side FC Groningen in 1983 - is optimistic.
He told The New Paper: "It was a good trial, the coaches said I had good aerial presence and I'm good with the passing and I have some speed so they really liked me."
"Hopefully we do well there and get a contract. Portugal is a nice country with good players and it's a good place to progress as a footballer ."
With Singapore Under-23 midfielder Saifullah Akbar departing on Tuesday for a trial with the reserve team of Spanish second division side CD Tenerife, the field has opened up for more local footballers to pit themselves against Europe's finest.
Fandi, who is also the interim national coach, believes such examples can only inspire more footballers back home.
He said: "We hope we can have more Singaporeans playing abroad - so that they can get exposure, and when they come back, they pass on that experience to more boys."