There has been little to cheer about for local football fans of late but a hat-trick by the son of Singapore's favourite footballing legend at the recently concluded Lion City Cup offers hope of a brighter future.
Trailing by three goals in the first half against the technically gifted Liverpool U15 team, our U16 cubs squandered chance after chance. But there was one player who leapt higher, ran further and pushed harder than anyone else on the pitch - Ikhsan Fandi.
Singapore NFA U16's Ikhsan Fandi scores his third goal. Photo: Sport Singapore
Fandi’s sons have always come under tremendous pressure to live up to their father's legacy but the second of his five children, Ikhsan, did not disappoint on his debut.
Three goals down with all eyes on the ground and long balls constantly being pumped forward, it seemed like the cubs had lost the ability to string passes together.
Then came the first goal – a prelude to the flood that was about to come. A run from Ikhsan just past the halfway line, a shift of the ball from his right to his left and a well placed finish. But there wasn’t time to celebrate as he ran to pick up the ball from the net, already looking for the second goal.
Singapore NFA U16's Ikhsan Fandi (in blue) in action. Photo: Sport Singapore
Courtesy of Singapore’s other standout player Saifullah Akbar, it did not take long to come. Saifullah released Ikhsan with a well weighted through ball and the fleet footed striker poked the ball past the onrushing goalkeeper.
The stadium roared and the crowd got behind their home team as chants of “we want goal” lifted the spirits of our young Lions.
Just a few minutes later, Saifullah again took control of the ball on the flank and lobbed a deep cross straight to the head of Ikhsan Fandi. Ikhsan made no mistake with the finish, nodding the ball beyond the Liverpool custodian to complete an 11 minute hat-trick.
But Ikhsan's goals were not enough for the brave young men to secure victory as the game was settled in the cruellest of ways - a penalty shootout.
The Singapore NFA U16 team huddle before their game. Photo: Sport Singapore
Haziq Razzali had his shot saved while Liverpool made no mistakes from the spot meaning the Lions walked away with a loss.
Still, Ikhsan's performance rekindled hope in the hearts of Singaporeans – one that has barely seen light of day since the era of Fandi Ahmad of years past.