The Sunday Times, Mar 1,
By Shirlynn Ho-Pereira
Fandi Ahmad and David Lee, with their families.
THREE young boys, three
different dreams, one goal -- to play football for
Singapore. They did, for more than 10 years each. One
became Singapore's safest hands, one a live-wire in
midfield, and one became the definitive sports star.
Tonight at the National Stadium, Singapore says
'Farewell' and 'Thank You' to David Lee, Malek Awab
and Fandi Ahmad as they hang up their international
boots. They share their thoughts and feelings with
Timesport correspondent Shirlynn Ho-Pereira
before their testimonial tonight.
been great to me, says Fandi
I WOULD like to
be remembered as a good ambassador for Singapore
Sometimes, when I travel to play abroad, some of
the people I meet didn't even know where Singapore
I would like to think that I've carried the flag
of Singapore well during the years I played for my
I don't know what to say sometimes when I look
back at my career.
For football has made a lot of things happen for
me, made me successful.
It's like football brought me to the right places
at the right time.
When I was young, I never even thought about the
future and whether football could be it.
At that time anyway, football was just a pastime,
But I just wanted to work hard at it. Over the
years, I've come to look at myself as an entertainer,
to score that spectacular goal, even if I was to come
on for one minute.
I think that my job is to entertain the fans who
pay and I think I've done more than my share. I'm
happy with everything. That's why I say I've been
My advice to young players now is that if they
ever get a chance, they should go to Europe and play
Even if it means bringing the whole family over to
support them. That's what I would have done.
HARDEST WORKOUT: Pre-season training sessions under
Ken Worden and Vincent Subramaniam.
faithful fan: My mum.
football boots: At 12. A pair of six-studs Adidas
Inter which my father bought for me. Had to pay by
instalments. But I was wearing hockey boots with
rubber studs at that time, which felt more
comfortable in. It took a while to get used to
many pairs of football boots have you run through?
Must be between 100 and 200 pairs.
started off as: Midfielder.
part about being a footballer: The travelling.
Worst: Too much pressure. When you're a good player,
people expect you to do everything right.
ambition before football came into the picture: Never
thought about it. But football was just a hobby at
Age: 35 (36 on May 29).
1st international: 1978, Russian tour.
Final game: SEA Games, Jakarta, 1997.
Currently: Footballer with SAFFC.
Married to Nur Sarah. Six-month-old son, Irfan.
All the hard work has paid off, says Malek
THE testimonial match is something good, I feel.
Something in return for what I've done for soccer and
As a player, I feel very happy. Playing this will
bring back a lot of memories, especially with the
other players ... Being a footballer and getting into
the national team was a dream come true for me.
My education can say is zero, look at my size, can
also say zero. Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I
So small and so skinny can become footballer. One
whack from other people can fly. Even my army officer
told me I was too small to play football. But I
wanted to prove them wrong. I believe hard work has
gotten me where I am. And it shows that hard work
At that time, it was very difficult to get into
the national team; now a lot of players can walk into
There was a bigger group of high-calibre players
before. That time, just being on the bench for me was
a fantastic achievement.
After my national service, my uncle asked me to
return to Saudi Arabia with him. I told him I would
follow him if I was not selected to play for
Singapore. I said if I was selected, I believe
something good would come out of it.
In my career, there were ups and downs. But
looking back, I really think it's fantastic that I
managed to be in the national team for 15 years with
HARDEST WORKOUT: 1993 in Darwin. Arrived at about
4am, training at 4pm, did a 5km run followed by speed
work on a slope.
faithful fan: Aishah Abdul Rashid. A Bruneian girl
whom I still haven't met. But she wrote to me when I
first joined the national team. Whenever I go to
Brunei, I will give her a call.
football boots: $29 Gola boots. I had $12, Farrer
Park United's team manager Robert Ng lent me $17. I
was 15. And the first day I wore it, it rained.
many pairs of football boots have you run through?
More than 50.
started off as: Right winger.
part about being a footballer: Travelling and making
part: It's a short career. And if you don't plan for
the future, then things may be difficult.
ambition before football came into the picture:
1st international: King's Cup, Bangkok, 1980.
Final game: Tiger Cup, 1996.
Currently: Part-time player with Woodlands Wellington
Married to seamstress Sharifah Nazihah.
L to R: Malek Awab,
David Lee and Fandi Ahmad.
When you have to
go, you go, says David
IF I had to do it all over again, I would want to
be a striker. It's more fun. You know, a striker can
miss and miss and miss. But if he scores one goal, it
can be the winning goal and he's the hero.
As a goalkeeper, you can save hundreds of goals
but if you let one in, you are the villain. And
nobody remembers all the other goals which you have
Actually, I started off as a striker in my school
days but my endurance was probably not so good, so I
decided to become a goalkeeper; no need to run so
much. That was when I was about 15.
But even then, I never thought about football as a
career. I had no real plans about the future.
But I remember watching the South-east Asian
Peninsular Games at the National Stadium in 1973 and
I saw Lee Bee Seng in the Singapore jersey.
That's when I told myself that one day, I would be
doing that; I would be the one wearing the Singapore
jersey and playing in front of a big home crowd. That
was my ambition.
I think that's what I miss most about not playing
for Singapore -- the atmosphere and being in front of
so many people. The S-League is a different kind of
feeling, cannot compare ... I have no regrets.
I've been playing for almost 20 years, I'm happy
with what has turned out.
I feel sad to leave the national team of course,
but when you have to go, you have to go.
HARDEST WORKOUT: 1994 when I came back after an
18-month lay-off. During that time, I didn't even
play social football. The pre-season training was a
faithful fan: Student whom I first met in 1983. We've
been in touch since. She's now an insurance agent.
First pair of football boots: Adidas Inter,
$30. I had to borrow the money from my brother to buy
many pairs of boots have you run through? Fewer than
Gloves? Eight pairs per season. Definitely
more than 100.
started off as: A striker.
part about being a footballer: Celebrity status and
recognition. It helps in my job since I'm doing
Worst: Being injured and not winning the South-east
Asia Games gold.
ambition before football came into the picture: Can't
Date of birth: 39 (40 on April 10).
1st international: King's Cup, Bangkok, 1979.
Last game: SEA Games, 1991.
Currently: Part-time with Geylang United.
Married to Nettie, three children -- Anne-Marie,
Dwayne Joseph and Rae-Marie.