Fandi and son leading candidates to light SEA Games flame

Fandi and son leading candidates to light SEA Games flame
Irfan (second from left) son of Singapore's football legend and LionsXII head coach Fandi Ahmad (left)

Steeped in symbolism, the lighting of the torch at any multi-sport games is one of the most iconic moments and is often the most closely-guarded secret.

The image of sailor Darren Choy holding aloft a flame in pitch darkness at the floating platform in 2010, seemingly running on water as he lit the flame at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, is etched in the sporting psyche of the nation.

And as the June 5 opening of the South-east Asia (SEA) Games approaches, The New Paper has learnt that a father-son pair are leading the race to light the SEA Games cauldron.

Former Singapore football captain Fandi Ahmad and his eldest son, 17-year-old Irfan Fandi - part of the national Under-23 football squad at the Games - are the leading candidates from a host of inter-generational pair of torch-bearers to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony.

If they are indeed the chosen ones, the duo will follow in the footsteps of sprinter C Kunalan, who lit the cauldron at the first South- east Asia Peninsular Games hosted in Singapore in 1973; the late Tan Eng Yoon, an Olympian who kicked off the 1983 Games; and bowling queen Grace Young, who lit the flame the last time the Republic hosted the Games in 1993.

"The torch-bearers have been selected from a variety of sports to symbolise how sports have grown in both breadth and depth in Singapore," said Colonel Lawrence Lim, chairman of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies (OCC).

"The idea behind the inter-generational pair of athletes is to connote the nurturing and passing down of sporting values from one generation to another.

Lim was speaking at the unveiling of the SEA Games cauldron at the $1.33 billion Singapore Sports Hub yesterday, marking the one- month countdown to the Games.

Former swim queen Joscelin Yeo, whose haul of 40 gold medals over eight editions is the most by any athlete in the region in the history of the Games, was one name bandied about, along with Tan Howe Liang, the weightlifter who won the Republic's first-ever Olympic medal - a silver - in 1960.


Swimmer Joseph Schooling was another name put forward to mark a new chapter in Singapore sport.

Singapore South-east Asia Games Organising Committee (Singsoc) chairman Lim Teck Yin had earlier said that "the person must be someone people recognise, one that people are fans of, and the person must have contributed a lot to sport in Singapore."

Fandi fits the bill perfectly.

Perhaps still the most recognisable Singaporean footballer to date, the 52-year-old is an obvious choice for this group of iconic athletes who will be honoured with the task of lighting the flame.

Fandi flew the Republic's flag in Europe where he turned out for Dutch side FC Groningen in the mid 80s, famously scoring the winning goal against Italian giants Inter Milan in the second round of the Uefa Cup, now known as the Europa League, in 1983.

He first forced his way into the Singapore sporting psyche three years earlier in 1980, when as a 18-year-old, he scored the winning goal in the Malaysia Cup final against Selangor.

With six SEA Games medals - three silver and three bronze - in his posession, Fandi now coaches the LionsXII, a Singaporean developmental side that returned to Malaysian football in 2012 after an 18-year hiatus.

Eldest son Irfan has already shown promise to follow in his father's footsteps, being named in The Guardian's 40 best young talents in world football.

Located at the Waterfront Plaza at the Singapore Sports Hub, the cauldron was designed by DP Architects and is currently being fitted onto the site outside the National Stadium.

The 19.2-metre structure was inspired by the double helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the carrier of genetic information, signifying the connection among individuals, communities and countries in a unity of aspirations.

A series of community events has been planned to engage the public in the journey of the flame, with the culmination of the flame making its way across the Kallang basin, and into the cauldron - perhaps helped by Fandi and Irfan.

Cauldron fast facts

Design inspired by the double helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the carrier of genetic information.

It measures 19.2m tall and 8m wide, with a burner able to project a 1.5m- to 4m-high flame.

There are 11 bars within its stainless steel structure to represent the different countries participating in this year's Games.

It will feature an LED screen displaying information, such as the time and weather during the Games.

Located at the Waterfront Plaza at the Singapore Sports Hub, it allows the public to get up close and personal.

This article was first published on May 7, 2015.
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