Singapore football icon Fandi Ahmad’s appointment as Sri Pahang’s coach for the 2023 season reveals the reality of talent flows across international borders in sports. The Singaporean is no stranger to the Malaysian football club: As a player, he helped it to win the Malaysian league and Malaysia Cup double in 1992. Fandi, who joined Pahang as technical adviser in 2022, inherits the top job from Malaysian legend Dollah Salleh, who had taken charge temporarily after the resignation of Frenchman Christophe Gamel last season. The involvement of three nationalities – Singaporean, Malaysian and French – in the evolving fortunes of a single Malaysian sports club attests to the international character of talent in football, as in other sports.
This is natural. Sports teams, be they local or national, are identified geographically. Since geography itself is defined by territorial divisions into states, sports possesses a basic national character. Thus, Manchester United is and will be a British team so long as Manchester and Britain exist as recognisable entities. However, the national origins of sports teams do not prevent them from importing (or exporting) talent according to their needs and resources. The global trajectories of sporting demand and supply meet in the elusive figures of prized individuals.