Football: Irfan, Ikhsan to continue sharpening skills in Chile

They are the two eldest sons of Singapore's most famous footballer and, despite making encouraging initial strides into national-team action, Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi are eager to continue their footballing education overseas.

While the duo are back among Singapore age-group squads this year, they will return to Chile after their various commitments and resume training with Universidad Catolica, a top-tier Chilean club with whom they have been since December 2013.

Yesterday morning, however, they became teachers instead as they helped conduct an hour-long kids' football clinic for their sponsor CIMB Bank at ITE College Central, dishing out pointers to improve dribbling and shooting.

At 17, Irfan is already turning out for the Courts Young Lions in the S-League and will be spearheading the Under-23 side's SEA Games quest for gold in June.

For Ikhsan, he has been training with the Singapore U-16s after being cut from the side preparing for the 2016 AFC U-23 Championship qualifiers.

He will return to Chile in April.

Playing as striker, the 1.86m-tall Irfan scored the U-23 side's solitary consolation goals in recent defeats by Japan U-22s and Syria U-23s.

However, he made his S-League debut as a emergency centre-back for the Young Lions instead, in a 0-1 defeat by Tampines Rovers last week, and said: "It is much more physical here than I was used to back in Chile but I will need to get used to that.

"I am just going to continue giving 100 per cent on the pitch to improve."

Young Lions' assistant coach S. Subramani likened Irfan to former Singapore stalwart Aleksandar Duric but felt that Irfan still had plenty of room to improve.

"With the great physique he has, Irfan is the kind of player you love to have on your side," said the former national team defender.

"He needs to work on being a presence higher up the pitch.

"I have told him that he must always be in the box because he is most dangerous there."

While he may be tall, Irfan insists that he needs bulking up to become a strong presence.

"Normally, people eat two slices of bread for breakfast but I eat six," he quipped. "After training back in Chile, I eat the meal prepared for the players and then I eat a second meal back home. And usually after midnight, I eat again.

"Even in Chile, I have a bigger physique compared to most of my team-mates but I have to keep working hard and giving my all in training.

"The players in Chile go all out in every training and I have to do that as well."

With his feet on the ground and his eyes firmly set on scoring the goals to help the U-23 team win the elusive gold medal at the SEA Games, Irfan's raging appetite means that opposition defenders will have plenty on their plates come June.

This article was first published on March 15, 2015.
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