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Fandi Ahmad (b. 29 May 1962, Singapore - ) is a former Singapore international footballer. Regarded as one of Singapore’s most successful footballers, he played for clubs in Singapore, Indonesia, Holland and Malaysia before going on to coach teams in Singapore and Indonesia. A popular player, Fandi was noted for his talent, love for the game and humility.
Fandi grew up around the attendants’ quarters at Woodbridge Hospital, where his father, former Singapore international goalkeeper Ahmad Wartam, worked. He attended Yio Chu Kang Primary School and showed a keen interest in football as a child, eventually persuading his reluctant father to bring him to Malaysia Cup matches and training sessions.
Though starting off as a goalkeeper like his father, Fandi had switched to an attacking midfield or forward position by the time he played for his school team. A teacher recommended that he and four teammates join the Milo Soccer Scheme for talented young footballers but his first application was unsuccessful. Fandi’s parents divorced when he was 12 years old, and he moved into a kampong in Jalan Eunos with his grandparents.
Fandi then studied at Serangoon Gardens Secondary School and trained with the Kaki Bukit Constituency Sports Club. The club coach, Abdullah Yusoff, encouraged him to try for the Milo Scheme again, and this time Fandi was accepted. He later continued his education at the Singapore Vocational Institute, where he earned a National Trade Certificate 3 qualification.
Early football career
By the time he was 15, Fandi had become a first-team player for Kaki Bukit in the National Football League Division 1, the highest level of club football in Singapore at the time. He was also a regular for the Singapore Malays team. In 1977, Fandi was vice-captain of the Singapore Under-16 national team that won the Lion City Cup youth tournament, with a newspaper dubbing him “Singapore’s schoolboy soccer sensation”. In 1978, he captained the Singapore Under-16 team which retained the Lion City Cup. In July that year, Fandi was called up for a national training tour of Russia, becoming the youngest footballer to represent Singapore, a record that lasted until 2007. He was the first player from the Milo Scheme to make it to Singapore’s national football team.
In January 1979, Fandi made his Malaysia Cup debut at the National Stadium against Malacca. Two months later, he scored his first Malaysia Cup goal in Singapore’s 2-1 win over Trengganu. However, the season ended with Singapore losing 2-0 to Selangor in the final. The following season, coach Jita Singh made Fandi a striker after the retirement of forwards Dollah Kassim and Arshad Khamis. This time, Fandi notched Singapore’s winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Selangor, before enlisting for National Service in September 1980. In 1981, Fandi was named the Football Association of Singapore’s Footballer of the Year.
Fandi’s talent drew attention from abroad. By April 1981, there was interest from the top Malaysian teams, Swiss club Young Boys of Berne, and Argentina’s Boca Juniors. In February 1982, Jaap Reinders, a scout for the famous Dutch club Ajax Amsterdam, invited Fandi for a trial in Amsterdam. Impressed with Fandi’s performance during the three-week trial in July, Ajax offered him a three-year contract worth S$40,000 a year, but Indonesian club Niac Mitra countered with a S$75,000-a-year offer.
Fandi was inclined towards Ajax, but his family urged him to pick Niac because Indonesia was closer to home. He eventually signed a one-year contract with the Indonesian club. While his stay there was a happy one, Fandi later acknowledged that not moving to Ajax was the biggest mistake of his life. After his National Service ended, Fandi moved to Surabaya in August 1982. He had a successful stint there, scoring 13 goals in his first season as Niac Mitra won the Galatama League. In June 1983, he also helped Singapore to a Southeast Asian (SEA) Games silver medal.
Fandi was on the verge of sealing a deal to play for Kuala Lumpur in the Malaysia Cup when Dutch side FC Groningen offered him a return to Europe in June 1983. The following month, he signed a two-year contract with the Dutch team, and became the first Singaporean player to play and score in a European cup competition when he netted the second goal in Groningen’s 2-0 win over Inter Milan in October 1983. At the end of his first season in Holland, he had scored 10 goals in 29 games, and was voted the most popular and skilful player by Groningen fans.
His second season with Groningen was not a happy one due to injuries, loss of form and a poor working relationship with the coach. His contract was not renewed, and Fandi left Groningen in 1985. Despite the brevity of his stay there, Fandi is still regarded fondly by Groningen fans. In 1999, they voted him into Groningen’s Hall of Fame as one of the club’s 25 best players.
Back to the Malaysia Cup
Fandi returned to Southeast Asia in 1985 and signed a two-year contract with the Kuala Lumpur Football Association. His career in the Malaysian capital was successful, as he lifted the Malaysia Cup thrice in succession from 1987 to 1989. In 1988, he was the top goal scorer in the tournament with 22 goals.
Outside the Malaysian League season, Fandi played for Geylang United in Singapore’s Premier League. He helped Singapore win silver medals in the 1985 and 1989 SEA Games, and collected bronze medals from the 1991, 1993 and 1995 Games. Fandi's final SEA Games appearance came in 1997 in Jakarta.
In July 1990, Fandi left Kuala Lumpur for Greek side OFI Crete, but he failed to settle in Greece and left the club after two months. In 1991, he joined Malaysian side Pahang on a two-year, S$10,000-a-month contract, and helped Pahang win the Malaysian League and Cup in 1992. That year, newspaper reports dubbed Fandi Singapore’s first millionaire sportsman.
Fandi returned to Singapore in 1993. His goals led Singapore to the Malaysia Cup final that year, where they lost to Kedah. The following year, he recorded 26 goals in 39 games. For captaining Singapore to the Malaysian League and Cup trophies, he was awarded the Public Service Medal in August 1994. This was Singapore’s as well as Fandi’s final year of participation in the Malaysian League and Cup, as Singapore subsequently pulled out of the tournaments.
In 1996, Fandi signed a five-year, S$1 million deal with sporting goods chain Royal Sporting House to become an ambassador for its products. He also signed for Geylang United in Singapore’s newly-formed professional football league (the S.League) and captained Geylang to the inaugural S.League title. That year, he also hosted a television series, Meniti Pelangi, for charity and released a music album, Anugerah, which sold about 10,000 copies.
Besides endorsements and appearances, Fandi also undertook several other ventures off the field, mainly through his company Fandi Ahmad International, which he had set up in 1993. His business investments included a used car dealership and restaurants, but these were not successful.
Fandi moved to the Singapore Armed Forces Football Club (SAFFC) in 1997, winning the S.League and Singapore Cup that year and the league title in 1998. He retired from the Singapore national team at the end of 1998. In December 1999, he became coach of SAFFC. He led the club to S.League titles in 2000 (being voted the S.League Coach of the Year that season) and 2002, before leaving the team in 2003.
At the end of 2003, he signed a deal with the Football Association of Singapore to become the national team’s assistant coach, supporting Serbian Radojko Avramovic. In his new backroom role, Fandi helped Singapore win the ASEAN Football Championship in 2005, and also coached the Young Lions (Singapore’s Under-23 team) in the S.League. In 2007, Fandi moved to Indonesia to coach Pelita Jaya, which he left in November 2010. He was then appointed the Genova International Soccer School’s project manager for Asia and a scout for Italian football club Vicenza Calcio.
In early 2011, Fandi returned to Singapore and set up the Fandi Ahmad Academy for young footballers. He also launched a fitness book for kids titled Optimal Fitness: For Junior Champions Ages 7-17, which he co-authored.
Parents: Ahmad Wartam and Semiah Ismail.
Siblings: Fazli (brother) and Faridah (sister).
Wife: Wendy Jacobs, former South African model (married in 1998).
Children: Irfan, Iksan, Iman, Ilhan and Iryan.
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Dorai, J. (1994, May 30). From office boy to pin-up boy – but there are more goals yet for Fandi. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from NewspaperSG.
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Fandi is too nice for his own good. (2006, November 12). The Sunday Times, p. 37. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from NewspaperSG.
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Humphreys, N. (1999, December 4). Fandi is now Warriors’ coach. The Straits Times, p. 110. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from NewspaperSG.
Khoo, P. (1992, January 9). Fandi hits $1 million earnings mark. The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from NewspaperSG.
Khoo, P. (1994, October 21). Millionaire Fandi remains untouched by fame, fortune. The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from NewspaperSG.
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Raymond, J. (2007, June 27). A superstar’s sacred ground. TODAY, p. 44. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from NewspaperSG.
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Wang, M. M. (2008, December 14). I love my new life, but I’ll be back as Lions coach. The Straits Times. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from Factiva.
Wang, M. M. (2007, July 2). Super striker, poor salesman. The New Paper. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from Factiva.
Yeo, W. (1990, October 1990). Fandi owns up, pays $51,000 for release. The Straits Times, p. 38. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from NewspaperSG.
Yeo, W. (1993). The Fandi Ahmad story. Singapore: Brit Aspen Pub.
(Call no.: RSING 796.334092 YEO)
Yeo, W. (1978, July 23). Schoolboy Fandi among 24 in Russia tour list. The Sunday Times, p. 32. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from NewspaperSG.
Yeo, W. (1978, August 16). Fandi: A future more illustrious than Zainal’s. The Straits Times, p. 25. Retrieved November 14, 2010, from NewspaperSG.
The seventeen connection: Fandi 17. [1995-1997]. Singapore: Fandi Ahmad International.
(Call no.: RSING 796.33405 SC)
The information in this article is valid as at 2011 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.