Malaysian FA Cup: Fandi dedicates win to late dad

Malaysian FA Cup: Fandi dedicates win to late dad

In the build-up to the Malaysian FA Cup final, he fasted on Mondays and Thursdays and, on Wednesday, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad went to the Muslim Cemetery to pay respects to his late father, former national goalkeeper Ahmad Wartam, who died last November.

"I want to dedicate this win to him because my family has played such a big role in my life, and I'm sad that he is not here today to savour this moment with me," said Fandi, who will turn 53 on Friday.

"They taught me to be humble. That is how I have pulled through all the tough times."

While he did not cry like he did after the semi-final win over Terengganu last week, Fandi was visibly emotional last night, and paid tribute to his family, who have stood by him through all his ups and downs as a football coach.

He told The New Paper: "This feels so sweet, because my mother (Semiah) Ismail, and my sons, Ilhan and Iryan, are here with me to celebrate this win.

"Together with the players, backroom staff and fans, we are all one big football family and I'm so happy we can experience this special moment together."

Twelve years after his last piece of silverware - the S.League title with SAFFC in 2002 - he has his first cup victory after the LionsXII beat Kelantan 3-1 in an exciting final at Bukit Jalil Stadium last night.

It has been a roller-coaster ride for Fandi ever since he hung up his boots and became SAFFC head coach in 2000.

There were the highs of winning the S.League twice with SAFFC, twice leading the Young Lions to third place in the league - their best finish - and helping Pelita Jaya win promotion to the top tier of Indonesian football.

But there were also the lows of failing in the Malaysian Super League with moneybags Johor Darul Ta'zim, and last season's eighth-placed finish with the LionsXII.

Fandi said: "This is all God's will. I lost the FA Cup to Kelantan with Johor Darul Ta'zim in 2013, but it is so satisfying to win with an all-local Singaporean team, upsetting the odds and proving critics wrong.

"Having my family here makes it all the more sweeter."

The win is also vindication of Fandi's coaching abilities, when at times he has been criticised for being too attack-minded.

However, throughout this fairy-tale FA Cup run, Fandi and his backroom staff got it right.

Despite not enjoying the bulk of possession, the LionsXII counter-attacked against superior teams with deadly effect, and scored a whopping 19 goals in seven games.

"We play attacking football, we score goals. We have strategies, the boys executed them to the best of their abilities," said Fandi, who slept just four hours a day over the last two weeks while plotting the final victory.

"We never gave up. I believe in my team, and they believe in me."

With typical modesty, he added: "Please, it's not about me. This is all about the boys, they were the ones who played their hearts out in training and in matches.

"They have proven they can do it. I just hope Singapore football can go on to greater heights from here."

This article was first published on May 24, 2015.
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