Irfan wants to make a name for himself in national team
Striker-turned-defender determined to make an impact for national team
He grew up with the weight of expectation on his broad shoulders.
After all, he's the eldest son of local football legend Fandi Ahmad.
Irfan Fandi Ahmad used to be a broody teenager who got easily affected after reading online criticism about himself.
Nowadays, the 19-year-old smiles more, talks more and is more at ease with his identity and his place in the national team.
"I felt the pressure of the attention and the weight of expectation when I was younger," Irfan told The New Paper in an interview.
"I first experienced that during the 2013 Lion City Cup and then also at the 2015 SEA Games. People expected me to win games on my own which was a bit unrealistic.
"Being active on social media, I would read through the comments that I'm not living up to my father's name. I would feel bad and it affected my game.
"Now, I have moved beyond that phase. I feel more liberated and free to express myself on the pitch.
"Of course, having the likes of Hassan Sunny, Hariss Harun and Safuwan Baharudin around me on the pitch to encourage and push me really helps a lot.
"I want to live up to my family name and play my part to contribute to the national team's success."
In an interview four years ago, the 1.86m-tall Irfan was in two minds if he should represent South Africa - the country of birth of his mother Wendy Jacobs - or Singapore, for whom his father Fandi wore the national colours with distinction.
Irfan had said then: "If playing for South Africa can pave the way for me to achieve my dreams (of playing in a top overseas club), then I would do it."
He still has not given up on his overseas ambition and is attracting interest from clubs in South America and Europe.
But, when it comes to the international level, he is crystal clear where his allegiance lies.
"Singapore has given my dad and my family a lot in the sense that there's always a lot of encouragement and support," said Irfan.
"I feel that we, as children, should give back to the country in any way we can."
For someone who has scored against Arsenal and Eintracht Frankfurt at youth level and against Japan at the Under-22 level, Irfan was tipped to be a top striker who can strike fear into opponents with his lanky frame and nose for goals.
His S.League strike rate of four goals in 18 games is also considered respectable for a teenage professional.
He earned his first cap on Oct 11 last year when he started as a striker in a 2-0 friendly loss at Hong Kong.
But, in recent months, Irfan and his coaches realised that he can prevent goals too.
On Thursday (March 23), national coach V Sundramoorthy handed him his second cap and used him as a centre back in the 2-1 friendly defeat by Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar.
In a generally tidy performance, Irfan marshalled the defence well alongside Safuwan and also attempted to launch attacks with diagonal passes from deep.
And he may well keep his place at the back in the Asian Cup third-round Group E qualifier against Bahrain here on Tuesday.
"His physique and aerial ability fit the mould of a centre back. He is willing to fight for the team and he reads the game well for his age. I believe he can become a reliable national defender," said Sundram of Irfan.
While he still enjoys the thrill of putting the ball in the net, Irfan is equally excited about the new challenge.
He said: "Of course, it feels great to score goals, but I also take a lot of satisfaction from keeping a clean sheet.
"It's hard to explain, but playing as a central defender feels easy and natural to me.
"I feel like I can see the big picture from the back and instinctively know whether an opponent is going to turn wide, pass the ball or cut inside.
"I feel confident I can chase down an opponent and win the ball from him."
Standing up to the Bahrainis in what will be his first competitive Lions outing will be a great start, especially since Singapore have never beaten the Middle East team in six previous meetings.
Irfan said: "They are probably bigger, fitter and stronger than Afghanistan, and it's a big challenge for me.
"It will be something special if I get to play my first competitive match at the senior international level.
"Nobody expects us to pull off a result, so that's already one motivation to prove them wrong.
"With lots of hard work and some luck, we can do it."
In an opening Group E match on Sunday, Turkmenistan laid down an early marker when the Central Asian side beat Taiwan 3-1 in Taipei.
David Lee and Benjamin Seetor's trip is sponsored by Qatar Airways Singapore. Qatar Airways has a modern fleet of 195 aircraft flying to more than 150 business and leisure destinations, including Doha and Bahrain. The world's fastest-growing airline will add a number of exciting new destinations, including Dublin, Nice and Skopje, to its network this year.