Headlines, Lifelines


WHAT: The Fandi Ahmad-David Lee-Malek Awab Testimonial.

WHERE: National Stadium

WHEN: 7pm

WHY: Tribute to three of Singapore's top footballers

WHO: Singapore vs South-east Asian Invitational Xl

The Sunday Times, Mar 1, 1998

By Shirlynn Ho-Pereira


Malek Awab, 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.

Football's been great to me, says Fandi

I WOULD like to be remembered as a good ambassador for Singapore football.

Sometimes, when I travel to play abroad, some of the people I meet didn't even know where Singapore was.

I would like to think that I've carried the flag of Singapore well during the years I played for my country.

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, a hobby.

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 blessed.

My advice to young players now is that if they ever get a chance, they should go to Europe and play their football.

Even if it means bringing the whole family over to support them. That's what I would have done.

SNAPSHOTS

* HARDEST WORKOUT: Pre-season training sessions under Ken Worden and Vincent Subramaniam.
* Most faithful fan: My mum.
* First 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 football boots.
* How many pairs of football boots have you run through? Must be between 100 and 200 pairs.
* First started off as: Midfielder.
* Best part about being a footballer: The travelling.
* Worst: Too much pressure. When you're a good player, people expect you to do everything right.
* First ambition before football came into the picture: Never thought about it. But football was just a hobby at first.

FANDI AHMAD
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 for Singapore.

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 also laugh.

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 pays off.

At that time, it was very difficult to get into the national team; now a lot of players can walk into the team.

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 my size.

SNAPSHOTS

* HARDEST WORKOUT: 1993 in Darwin. Arrived at about 4am, training at 4pm, did a 5km run followed by speed work on a slope.
* Most 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.
* First 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.
* How many pairs of football boots have you run through? More than 50.
* First started off as: Right winger.
* Best part about being a footballer: Travelling and making new friends.
* Worst part: It's a short career. And if you don't plan for the future, then things may be difficult.
* First ambition before football came into the picture: Businessman.

MALEK AWAB

Age: 37.
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 saved.

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.

SNAPSHOTS

* 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 killer.
* Most 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 them.
* How many pairs of boots have you run through? Fewer than 20.
* Gloves? Eight pairs per season. Definitely more than 100.
* First started off as: A striker.
* Best part about being a footballer: Celebrity status and recognition. It helps in my job since I'm doing sales.
* Worst: Being injured and not winning the South-east Asia Games gold.
* First ambition before football came into the picture: Can't remember.

DAVID LEE
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.

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