Fandi Ahmad, Wendy Jacobs' kids poised to become Singapore's stars

Fandi Ahmad, Wendy Jacobs' kids poised to become Singapore's stars
PHOTO: Harper's Bazaar Singapore

As if by a stroke of luck, the thunderstorm that has been raining down hard all morning begins to let up.

It is here, by the pool of a beach villa on Sentosa with panoramic views of the harbour, that we find Irfan, Ikhsan and Iman Fandi standing shoulder to shoulder in front of the camera, flower crowns on their heads and looking every bit the rising stars of Singapore.

Their last name requires little introduction. Parents, Fandi Ahmad and Wendy Jacobs, are Singapore's golden couple and the closest thing we have to the Beckhams.

Like David and Victoria, Fandi is a talented football legend who remains a poster boy for Singapore football, while Wendy fronted magazine covers and walked international runways as a top model before the responsibilities of motherhood beckoned.

"When we were younger, we didn't feel the effect of our father's fame much. It was only after we came back from Indonesia [where my father was based for a few years] that we could tell he is someone famous," recalls 20-year-old Irfan.

"We had to be mindful of how we behaved in public because people were always looking."

If anything, the handsome trio are growing comfortably into their own skin.

At 20, Irfan is the eldest of five children (four boys and one girl); he is reserved and quiet, while18-year-old Ikhsan has a playful air to him and values his independence. And don't be fooled by Iman's fresh-faced appearance-the 17-year-old former track-and-field athlete is articulate and confident.

Rounding up the gorgeous brood of five are boys Ilhan, 14, and Iryan, 11, who have the same great genes in both the looks and football skills department.

Most importantly, the eldest three - who previously enrolled at the Singapore Sports School-are learning to step out from the shadows of their well-known parents. And, they are doing it on their own terms.

Irfan is a fearless football player whose imposing frame is built to handle rough tackles on the field. Three years ago, he was singled out by British newspaper The Guardian as "one of the top 40 young talents in the world of football."

And in 2016, he scored another feat by landing a nomination for Favourite Asian Sports Star at the Nickelodeon 2016 Kids' Choice Awards in Los Angeles

Meanwhile, Ikhsan is playing catch-up. The teenager's boyish demeanour belies the tenacity and skilful footwork that he has demonstrated on the pitch.

Like his father, Ikhsan is settling into the role of striker on the team. Interestingly, instead of the usual big-name players from the major leagues, he cites his contemporaries from all over the world as his inspiration: "I look at the other players who are around my age and they've accomplished so much professionally. I think to myself, 'Why shouldn't I be like them?'"

The duo's progress has not gone unnoticed by their father, who is also watching their development from the sidelines with a bit of introspection. He muses: "When I see them out there on the field representing their teams, I think, 'Wow, my boys are grown up now.'"

Forging her own path is Iman, who is currently juggling a psychology course while making inroads into the modelling industry.

"I love it. I took part in a local modelling competition in 2014 and it was a great learning experience," she says, her Bambi-like eyes lighting up at the memory. "This industry is competitive; it's tough. But I've learnt the importance of being yourself. When I'm in front of the camera, it's always, 'Okay, let's do this.' I feel it's nothing I have to force."

Being the rose among the "thorns" has its advantages at home, too. "It's nice because I do get all the attention. But it can get lonely sometimes. When I was growing up, I often wished I had a sister. But," she pauses for dramatic effect,"I'll have many sisters-in-law in the future!"

As the eldest, the onus is on Irfan's shoulders to set a good example for the rest. "He is the other big figure in the house," Ikhsan says in jest. "He's an alpha male, but he's also a great leader."

The brothers only bonded more after spending periods away from home to train in Spain and Chile, when they were brought on board Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica-a trajectory that follows their father's, who made history as the first Singaporean to play for a European team when he signed a two-year contract with Dutch club FC Groningen in 1983.

When the siblings aren't throwing the occasional good-natured jibe at each other, they are glued to their phones like all millennials their age. Between them, the siblings boast more than 150,000 followers on Instagram. It's easy to get swept away by fame at such a young age, but they credit their parents for keeping their feet planted firmly on the ground. After all, no one understands that success is nothing without humility and hard work better than Dad himself.

"I tell my children that they must always be humble, respectful to people, work hard and remain grateful for the opportunities they have in life," Fandi emphasises. The advice has rubbed off on the kids. "My dad often tells me that no matter how big or famous you become, don't forget the people who helped you," Ikhsan says. Good looks and great manners? There's no better combination than that.

This article was first published in Harper's Bazaar Singapore

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