Singapore Footballer FANDI AHMAD is synonymous with sport in Singapore. In his latest book, Fandi: Honour & Sacrifice, written with Durga Poonambalam, Fandi – who turned 60 last month – shares the professional and personal life challenges he encountered in creating his footballing legacy, which continues through his children.
Introduce yourself without using the word “football”!
I’m Fandi Ahmad. I play different roles in my life as a father, husband, son, brother, friend and coach.
Did you expect your football career to last this long?
As a young boy, I used to carry my father’s boots and accompany him to training. I would stand by the side of the field and watch the footballers train – and wish to play in the national team myself. So it was an incredible honour when I first played in the team as a teenager, something I can never forget.
When I was younger, times were a little tough. So, no, I never thought my dream would turn into an ambition and then reality.
I’m thankful for every moment in my career, every person who helped and supported my journey, and my teammates and coaches who were instrumental in my success because they trusted in my abilities.
What would you have done if being a football player didn’t work out?
There was never a chance of that happening – I was determined to make sure it did!
As a father, how do you feel about your sons Irfan, Ikhsan and Ilhan following your footsteps into football?
I’m incredibly proud that they’re all doing well. It was my boyhood dream to be a Singapore footballer in the national team. I did and I’ve passed the torch on to my children.
To see them play in the national team is a proud moment for me. When I watch them play, I see a part of me in each of them. It still feels wonderful to hear the Fandi name on the field.
How do you feel about it as a football veteran?
I am first their father. As a veteran Singapore footballer, I challenge their skills and thoughts when it comes to football. I learn with and from my sons, and them from me.
They’re part of my story and football is where I always belong, so the two coming together is an incredible feeling. I feel connected to my children, not through football, but through the life I’ve created with it.
When you’re not involved in football, what does your life look like?
Training takes up most of my time. I spend most days watching basketball and spending time with family and friends. The book kept me busy for a while too!
Your marriage with Wendy Jacobs is also a huge part of your identity.
Wendy is an incredible woman – she has juggled a career and taken care of our family. We’ve weathered many storms as a family. She’s a pillar of our family and no matter what the children and I do, she’s ever ready with her support and I appreciate that deeply.
Wendy is originally from South Africa; how often do you get over there? What are some of your favourite spots?
We usually return every December for a visit; since COVID, though we haven’t had a chance. Over the years, we’ve had many wonderful memories in Cape Town – being with family and friends is always a joy. It’s a beautiful place and some of the spots we enjoy visiting are Table Mountain, the attractions along the west coast (tourist rides) and Cape Point. We hope to have the opportunity to visit again very soon!
How do Wendy and you create a strong relationship with your children?
It’s not all football talk at home – I remind them about having values and being professional because that will take them far.
Each day, we explore who we are as a family. As the children grow older, and form relationships and careers of their own, we respect their privacy and decisions, and give them the space to come into their own and develop their voices.
As parents, we can only guide their journey, but it’s up to them to turn their ambitions into reality.
Tell us a bit about Fandi: Honour & Sacrifice in your own words.
I’ve always wanted a life in football, not a lifestyle.
As a young boy, it was always my dream to play for my country and fly the flag high wherever I go. As a footballer, you represent your country no matter where you play and that to me has always been an honour. That honour comes with plenty of sacrifices.
It was not an easy journey; each moment in my career was important in shaping me. Fandi: Honour & Sacrifice is about the hard work that goes on behind the scenes despite the circumstances we may find ourselves in. Your biography centres around Discipline, Determination, Dedication and making Sacrifices (“3DS”).
What does it mean to you?
I believe that there is no one way to success. We can all choose the path we want to succeed in as long as we have the 3DS.
The 3DS is a life philosophy; it’s what got me through very difficult times in my career and life. It’s not enough to have talent, you must have the will to succeed.
This isn’t the first book about you. How is it different?
The first was written right after our Malaysia Cup win (1994) and I was at the peak of my career. Since then, I’ve grown as a person – I’m now a father, husband and coach.
This biography traces my life through my reflections – how I felt and overcame circumstances in my life, the choices I made and the people who have influenced my life.
It talks about the different layers of my life, which I want to share with the people who have supported my growth throughout the years.
How does it feel to join the ranks of Gary Neville, Arsene Wenger, Ian Wright and Harry Redknapp with a biography of your own?
It feels incredible to be able to share my story with the fans who’ve supported my career and family all these years.
What do you hope readers will get from the biography?
They’ve seen me as a Singapore footballer but through this biography, I hope for them to see the different roles I play and understand the motivations behind my life.
It’s not just my story, but one that shares my reflections, motivations and inspirations during different moments of my life.
Our stories are different and we can all learn something from each other; I hope that they can learn something from mine.
How was the experience relating your life story to Durga?
As a writer, Durga was sincere about how she wanted to approach my story and respected that I didn’t want to sensationalise it.
The experience was a long one but great! We travelled to Holland and Kuala Lumpur to meet with former teammates and close friends, did many interviews, went to events together and she also got to know my family.
This article first appeared in the July 2022 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!