Football: Twin terrors

Football: Twin terrors
F-17 Under-13s forwards Marc Tan and Ilhan Fandi Ahmad (from left).

He is on a mission to win a tournament billed as the youth World Cup with the F-17 Academy.

But 12-year-old Ilhan Fandi Ahmad has a big juggling act to deal with as his baggage included not just football boots, but also one English paper and a mathematics assessment book - homework he is supposed to complete.

"No problem, can lah," said a grinning Ilhan, who will take his Primary School Leaving Examination in a few months' time, but has the blessings of his famous family to play at the Gothia Cup in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Ilhan and fellow Under-13 forward Marc Tan are the only players who featured for the F-17 side that finished third out of 120 teams at last year's Gothia Cup. Then, they were in the U-11 category.

The F-17s are looking forward to winning starts ahead of today's opening ceremony as the U-13s kick off against Sweden's Karra KIF in Group 20, while the U-11s play Swedish side IFK Stocksund in Group 6.

F-17 Under-13s' coach Steven Tan is optimistic his two frontmen will deliver the goods, and tipped them to feature for the national team one day.

The 44-year-old said: "Ilhan should be playing behind Marc.

"Although he is not the fastest player in the team, Ilhan has a very good reading of the game, and the football brain is the hardest to coach at this age.

"Some kids are born with it, and Ilhan is one of them. He knows how football is meant to be played.

"He can anticipate what the opponents will do next, so he is always one step ahead of them, be it in terms of beating them, or intercepting the ball.


"Marc is not tall, but he is strong. He needs to work on his first touch and close control to make full use of his strengths."

After forming a superb partnership that yielded 28 goals in eight matches last year, Ilhan and Marc are looking to inflict more damage on their opponents this time round.

"Ready is my middle name," declared 13-year-old Marc, a strong striker who keeps possession well and has a booming shot.

"Preparation has been tough because of the intense fitness training, but it will all be worth it.

"I like playing in front of crowds and I'm aiming to score at least a goal in every game we play.

"Hopefully, we do well again and scouts over here can see our ability.

"The understanding Ilhan and I have is something that I cannot find with other players. We can read each other even before we make the play.

"And there is a belief between us that we can get past anyone."

Ilhan, a waifish wizard with delightful dribbling skills, returned the compliment.

He said: "We communicate very well, we just need to make hand signals to know what the other wants on the pitch.

"The Europeans are huge compared to us, so we have to move faster and play quick passes to get around them.

"We have learnt from last year's competitions to play as a team and never give up, and the aim is to do better than last year and get to the final."

This article was first published on July 13, 2015.
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