Tough past made Fandi strong

Tough past made Fandi strong

It was 20 years to the day when Fandi Ahmad suffered a freak injury to his buttocks, just before Singapore’s 2-0 Malaysia Cup final loss to Kedah.

The star midfielder fell backwards on an uncapped seat recliner after a training session. He passed out and was sent to the Singapore General Hospital, where he received stitches for the gash, about the length of a house key.

Monday, in a 20-minute question-and-answer segment during The New Paper’s School Sports Star Award ceremony at Bowen Secondary School, the Singapore football legend revealed how bad the injury was.

“When I had to pee, it was all blood; it was the worst injury in my career and I thought I had finished my career (with that injury),” said the 51-year-old before a crowd of about 100, including Guest-of-Honour and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat.

He was speaking as an ambassador for H-TWO-O, which sponsored the student awards this year.

The former Lions captain enthralled the students – who were not even born when Fandi lifted the Malaysia Cup for Singapore in 1994 – with stories of how he kept himself on the straight and narrow while growing up in a tough neighbourhood.

He said: “It was sometimes dangerous in the kampung where I used to live – sometimes when you hang jeans out to dry it will be gone because some people need the money to buy drugs.”

“I know most of them were good students and footballers, but because of drugs, they got carried away. It was difficult but I had to live strong and have a good character,” added Fandi.

He also told the students that he slept by 10pm in his teenage years, and would use his savings to buy meat to build up his scrawny body.

The Singapore Vocational Institute (predecessor of the Institute of Technical Education Balestier) graduate, whose father Ahmad Wartam is an inspirational figure to him, was so intensely focused on succeeding in football that he stayed off alcohol and cigarettes, and didn’t have a girlfriend till he was 21.

After an illustrious 21-year playing career, he retired in 1999 to go into coaching.

A frontrunner for the vacant LionsXII coaching position, Fandi is married to Wendy Jacobs and has four boys – who are all playing football – and a girl, who is a track and field school athlete.

After the ceremony, Mr Heng said: “I am very impressed by the story of Fandi – how he grew up in a very challenging environment but yet through sports he was able to overcome the circumstances, and this is commendable.”

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