'My turn to make history'
Inspired by dad Fandi, Irfan wants to fire Young Lions to the elusive football gold
Irfan Fandi has only one thing on his mind.
He can sense his moment coming.
He wants to deliver where generations of Singaporean footballers have failed: Win the South-east Asia (SEA) Games gold medal.
"Gold is all that I'm thinking about," said the striker, a very young man touted to achieve great things.
His date with destiny is nearing.
Inspired was how he felt after watching father Fandi Ahmad lift the Malaysian FA Cup with the LionsXII last Saturday.
While Irfan was making a goalscoring appearance for the Young Lions in a 5-1 friendly win against Laos' Under-23 side, the significance of the developments in Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur did not go unnoticed.
"Making history" were the 17-year-old's words of choice when he spoke to The New Paper before yesterday's training session with the Singapore U-23s.
He repeated the words five times.
The chance to make his own history comes in six days' time, when the Young Lions take on the Philippines at the Jalan Besar Stadium in their SEA Games Group A opener.
The other teams in the group are Indonesia, Myanmar and Cambodia.
"Much has been said about Singapore's quest for a first football gold medal, everyone's been talking about it," said the 1.87-metre tall striker.
"It's a big moment for us. My dad made history for Singapore football when he won the country's first cup in Malaysian football in 21 years on Saturday, so by the end of the SEA Games, it's my turn."
Fandi, widely acknowledged as Singapore's greatest footballer, won three silver and three bronze medals in nine SEA Games. Alas, the gold medal eluded him.
Subsequent Games came and went after Fandi hung up his boots in 1997, and there was still no gold.
A meagre return of three bronze medals in 2007, 2009 and 2013 was as good as it got.
Irfan has grand plans. He wants to achieve what even his father couldn't deliver.
But going one better than Fandi is just the first of his ambitions.
He would like nothing more than to emerge from his father's long shadow, to show he is more than just the offspring of Singapore's most famous footballer.
"This SEA Games is a big opportunity for me in so many ways," he said.
"But, most importantly, it's a chance for me to stamp my mark, and tell people that I'm Irfan Fandi, that I am my own man.
"That I'm more than just Fandi Ahmad's son."
Expectations of Irfan are understandably high.
Singaporeans already tout him as a star despite his fledgling years.
But U-23 assistant coach S Subramani was quick to warn against putting too much pressure on the boy's broad shoulders.
"People need to understand that he's still a young boy, and he's still developing himself as a player," said the former Singapore defender.
"He's got potential, and everyone can see what a talent he is. He scored last Saturday against Laos U-23s, and he scored during our training trip in Japan (in a 2-1 loss to local fourth-tier side Azul Claro Numazu), so you can see that he does bring goals to the team.
"I can't tell you if Sahil (Suhaimi) is going to start ahead of him or not, because both of them are different players.
"But what I can tell you is that either player brings something different to the team. Sahil's nippy and tricky. Irfan's tall and strong. You always want that kind of options in your team.
"I know that not many Singaporeans have seen much of Irfan over the years because he's been away for so long, learning his football, but I think he's got enough in him to make the wait worth it."
Now, the ball is in Irfan's court.
It is a home SEA Games. History beckons.
Duty calls, and Irfan is more than ready to answer.
An entire country expects, with bated breath.