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Irfan and Ikhsan off to Hercules

Fandi's sons join Spanish club academy for three-month stint; long-term offer already on the table. -TNP
Sazali Abdul Aziz

Wed, Mar 06, 2013
The New Paper

Two weeks after 17-year-old Adam Swandi departed for France, two of Fandi Ahmad's sons will jet off to Spain in an attempt to fulfil their dream of playing professional football in Europe.

Irfan, 15, and Ikhsan, 13, will leave Singapore on Sunday to join the academy of Spanish second division side Hercules CF for three months, with a view to possibly staying there for three years.

The Alicante-based club have made a long-term offer, but whether the boys can accept the deal will depend on factors like their school and residential status.

Fandi, who is currently head coach of Malaysian Super League side Johor Darul Takzim, will accompany his sons for 10 days in an attempt to settle those arrangements.

Hercules will handle the boys' accommodation during their stay at the club.

Speaking to The New Paper on Sunday, Fandi said: "The boys are leaving for three months to see how they cope... If everything goes well, we can take it from there.

"I will be there for a week, maybe 10 days, to try and clarify things like their school, residential status, whether they can have a legal guardian there... things like that."

On Jan 23, TNP reported that the boys had impressed Hercules' coaches when they attended a 10-day training camp at Spanish Primera Liga side Rayo Vallecano after accepting an invitation to train there.

While the initial agreement was understood to be for Irfan and Ikhsan to join Hercules sometime in July, the club recently informed Fandi they wanted the boys to join immediately.

They will train and play there for three months and return to Singapore at the end of the domestic season in Spain in May.

Ikhsan is thrilled he and his brother can finally link up with a club in Europe on a longer term, after undergoing trials at the likes of AC Milan, Valencia, Arsenal and Chelsea over the last five years.

"I'm very excited, this is like our dream coming true," said Ikhsan.

"In the next three months, I hope we can impress the coaches and show that Singapore can produce talented footballers. "Hopefully, we can stay there for a long time and do our dad proud."

Fandi's three other children - sons Ilhan, 10 and Iryan, 6, and daughter Iman, 13 - are all also either in football or athletics.

Long way to go

While joining Hercules is a major step towards helping his two eldest sons fulfil their ambition, the 50-year-old former Singapore star striker said they have a long way to go yet.

Fandi played for Dutch side FC Groningen from 1983 to 1985 and scored a memorable goal in the Uefa Cup against Italian giants Inter Milan.

"Once they're there (Europe), it's important Irfan and Ikhsan have belief and confidence in their own ability," said Fandi.

"They must be strong physically and mentally. They want to be professional footballers so, as a parent, I have done what I can to put them on this path. They must really want this."

Two weeks ago, National Football Academy Under-17 captain Adam left for a two-year stint at the academy of French third-tier side FC Metz, in a move that was arranged by the Football Association of Singapore.

Last month, Adam and Irfan were among 60 Under-17 footballers in Asia selected to take part in a five-day football camp at the Australia Institute of Sport in Canberra.

There, they trained under elite coaches from clubs like Barcelona, Manchester United, Inter Milan and Corinthians.

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