In Daddy's footsteps

This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 24, 2013

MORE than 35 years have passed since his father took his first step on the road to stardom by playing in the Lion City Cup; now, Irfan Fandi is hoping to do the same.

"I really need to seize this opportunity," the oldest son of Singapore football legend Fandi Ahmad told The Straits Times yesterday, as he confirmed his participation in this year's tournament.

Together with younger brother Ikhsan, the 15-year-old is currently in the youth ranks at Spanish second-tier outfit Hercules.

But he will return to join the Republic's National Football Academy Under-16s in their quest for glory at the 25th Lion City Cup, sponsored by Canon.

The Straits Times"We're just waiting to see when he can come back," coach Robin Chitrakar said.

It will be Irfan's first appearance in the Lion City Cup.

The June 8-16 tournament will also feature the NFA U-15s, and their counterparts from English side Arsenal, Germany's Eintracht Frankfurt, PSV Eindhoven of the Netherlands and Club World Cup holders Corinthians from Brazil.

Unveiled yesterday, this year's line-up contains an all-new foreign quartet for the third time in as many years.

The last two editions have seen the likes of Italy's Juventus, Portuguese giants Porto, Brazil's 2011 winners Flamengo and last year's top dogs Ajax Amsterdam light up the Jalan Besar Stadium.

"We always want to bring different teams to showcase different styles of football," stressed R.Sasikumar, managing director of tournament organiser the Red Card Group.

But for all the European and South American talent on show, the Lion City Cup is just as much - if not more so - a stage for local youngsters to prove that they can hang with the big boys.

Just as a certain Fandi did, starring for Singapore in the inaugural 1977 tournament.

"The Lion City Cup is a very good platform to discover new talent who will be national players one day," said Andrew Koh, Canon Singapore's general manager of consumer business.

He confirmed that the best player from both Singapore teams will be rewarded once again with a training stint at an overseas academy. This incentive was introduced last year, with defender Amer Nazri and midfielder Amirul Azmi spending two weeks at the famed academy of Ajax.

But Amer - the son of former national captain and NFA U-15 coach Nazri Nasir - will need no rewards to motivate him. Not after finding out that his beloved Arsenal will be in this year's draw.

"I didn't expect them to come," the 14-year-old said. "I hope we get to play them."

This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 24, 2013

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