Monday, June 10, 2013


Irfan The Messiah

It's not easy being the anointed one in Singapore, a country stuck in a time warp. Football, it is commonly held, stopped in 1994 when they won the Malaysia Cup in a game that has all the resonance of 1966 for the English.

That team has gone and in the eyes of the 94 brigade that team has never been equalled.

At the core of that team was Fandi Ahmad. Imagine George Best without the beer. And the birds. And the excesses. That is how Singaporeans see Fandi. Many cross the border to catch the team he coaches, Johor Darul Tazkim in the Malaysia Super League where they are engaged in a frantic title race with Singapore's LionsX11.

For years now the spotlight has been on Fandi's sons. I am serious! When he was in Indonesia the Singapore media would gleefully report how well the lads were doing at soccer school rather than report on the local game which it will be remembered died in 1994.

Irfan is one of the sons and on Saturday night he scored for NFA Under 16 against Arsenal which over course sent everyone into overdrive. Surely he was the messiah of Singapore football even though he had apparently not tidied his room the night before causing his old man to say 'he is not the messiah, he is a very naughty boy'.

The pressure on him is not healthy. In fact if you want to talk about highly hyped prodigies consider John Bostock who was signed by Tottenham as a spotty  but highly thought of teenager who has been released by the club without getting a game.

If Singaporeans really cared about Irfan and his future the best thing they can do is forget all about him. Let him be a teenager. Let him beat the crap out of his younger brother, wear dirty shoes in the house and tell the science teacher the subject is crap.

There is so much pressure to find the next 'insert name' with media and fans leading the charge but footballers need to be allowed to develop away from the headlines and hype. The last thing they need is petty, hysterical reactions; just concentrate on football and at Irfan's age girls. If he is good enough he will make it.

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