Honour goes to Fandi and Irfan

Honour goes to Fandi and Irfan

AFTER months of guesswork, the identity of the 28th SEA Games' final torchbearer finally came to light at precisely 9.58pm last night.

Only it was not one, but two who put torch to cauldron to signal the start of South-east Asia's biggest sporting event.

Singapore football's favourite son Fandi Ahmad, beaming with his eldest son Irfan beside him, took the Games torch on the last leg of its journey round the National Stadium.

The identity of the final torchbearer had been the subject of intense speculation in the lead-up to the opening ceremony.

Fabled athletes like former weightlifter Tan Howe Liang, Singapore's first Olympic medallist, were among the names being bandied around.

Swimmers like Joscelin Yeo, the region's most bemedalled SEA Games athlete with 40 golds; Ang Peng Siong, once the world's fastest 50m freestyle swimmer; and 2014 Asian Games champion Joseph Schooling had also been mentioned.

In the end, the honour went to Fandi - arguably the most famous name football-crazy Singapore has produced - and his son, the youngest player on the current SEA Games football squad at 17.

Judging by the cheers of the 40,000 spectators, the choice was a popular one.

For the 53-year-old Fandi, captain of the 1994 Dream Team that won the Malaysia Cup and M-League double, lighting the cauldron surpassed even the euphoria from his playing days.

Almost at a loss for words yesterday, he said: "This means more to me than scoring a goal in a Cup final. To be given this opportunity is very, very special. It is the greatest honour for me."

Fandi and Irfan now follow in the footsteps of three others who lit the cauldron when Singapore hosted ASEAN's biennial sports meet - sprinter C. Kunalan (1973), athletics' late Tan Eng Yoon (1983) and bowler Grace Young (1993).

In departing from convention to appoint two final torchbearers, organisers had hoped to signify the passing of the torch from one generation to the next.

The three other inter-generational pairs were athletics' Prema Govindan and Shanti Pereira, hockey's Annabel Pennefather and Enrico Marican, as well as badminton's Wong Shoon Keat and his son, Derek.

Dragonboat's Clement Neo, shuttler Liang Xiaoyu, sprinter Muhammad Naqib Asmin, judoka Gabriel Yang and 2013 SEA Games cycling champion Dinah Chan were also torchbearers yesterday.

Said Irfan: "... to be the one chosen makes it special, and even more special to do it with my dad.

"It is a way for me to say 'thank you' to Singapore."

maychen@sph.com.sg

jslow@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 6, 2015.
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