By Ali Kasim, Dilenkit Singh and Gregory Loo
THE MESSAGE is clear: Go for it Fandi and sons.
Members of the local football fraternity contacted by The New Paper yesterday were unequivocal in their support for Fandi Ahmad's decision to move to Europe.
TNP revealed yesterday that Fandi had finally made his decision to move to Europe in order to give his sons, Irfan and Ikhsan, their best shot at a professional football career.
"Ambition is good and if they can achieve what Fandi did at Groningen, why not?" said Fandi's former national teammate Malek Awab.
"There won't be any shortcuts with a lot of hard work involved, but all Singaporeans would want to see them succeed."
With such a tantalising opportunity within their reach, the parents of the Youth Olympic Games Cubs wingers Jonathan Tan and Brandon Koh believe that Fandi should seize it.
Said Jeffrey, Brandon's dad: "I think Fandi should take the best route that is available to him and the boys."
Added Jonathan's mum, Karen: "It is all about the opportunity. If Jon were to get such a chance after completing his O Levels, we would definitely support him."
Former national coach Barry Whitbread also approved of the move, but warned that Fandi would have to pick the right club to support the boys' development.
He said: "There will be no guarantees that the move will be sufficient for the boys to become top class players, but I think it is the right decision.
"The choice of club the boys go to will be vital - the philosophies and principles for pushing talent into the first team are important.
"I don't know what the set-up is like in Singapore now, but I was actually quite happy when my son Zak was in Singapore.
"He was training five or six times a week and when we went over to Liverpool, he actually trained less.
"It is important for them to be getting enough practice for them to learn and develop, which might not be the case at some of the bigger clubs where the pressure for results places an emphasis on buying rather than producing talent."
Local Fifa agent Abdul Halim thinks the sooner the boys go to Europe, the better their chances at making it.
He said: "In the agent circle it's accepted that players have to go to Europe before 20. The biggest problem with Singaporean footballers is that they lack mental strength.
"When you are younger it's easier to change your mindset to pick up good habits. You adapt to new surroundings better and your recovery period is shorter.
"That's why its so important to make the move at an early age.
"If they want to stay in Asia they will have to move to Japan. They can develop well there but even then they should still aim to cross over to Europe when they are around 20."
It is also an opportunity for Fandi to give his sons something that he missed out on, according to Tohari Paijan.
"Fandi missed out on Ajax because he made his final decision based on family, and he doesn't want his sons to miss out like he did," said the former Tanjong Pagar United coach.
"I hope his sons can make it and he's made the right choice as a father. Who better to guide the boys than Fandi who has first-hand experience of playing in Europe?"