Fandi Ahmad to return to manager role in charge of Singapore U20 side
Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad will officially return to the managerial hot seat when his newly formed Singapore Under-20 side take on the Mauritius U21s in a friendly later this month.
Fandi was unveiled by the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) as their new head coach of youth last October, overseeing the development of players from the ages of 19 to 23.
The move was initiated to bridge the gap between the U18 side -- the final level of the National Football Academy -- and their U22 counterparts. They consist mostly of players from S.League outfit Garena Young Lions, and compete at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games every two years.
Since his appointment, Fandi has been on an extensive scouting mission to identify players who may have slipped through the cracks and are not attached to any of the FAS youth sides, or the Prime League teams of S.League clubs.
All his hard work will come to fruition on March 11 when he and his new charges take on the Mauritius youngsters at the New George V Stadium in Curepipe.
"I'm very excited for the players because, for those who have dreamed of playing for Singapore one day, it may become reality," Fandi told ESPN FC.
"But the important thing is they have to strive and work hard because, every three months or six months, we will always try to bring in new players.
"It's not permanent that they're here, unless they're mentally and physically strong and they know that they want to be here -- they have to work very hard.
"We've told the players that, at the end of the day, we don't select the players. They select themselves."
The game will also have added significance as it is held to showcase the relationship between the two countries. It will also be part of the activities to commemorate Mauritius' 49th Independence Day, which falls on March 12.
"It is indeed very memorable to be playing a game there to celebrate a historical event like Mauritius' Independence Day," said Lim Kia Tong, president of the FAS' provisional council.
"Singapore and Mauritius have a strong relationship in the areas of tourism and aviation. With this game, we hope that the relationship between the two nations will be further strengthened through football.
"After all, football has the ability to connect people from all walks of life, whatever the distance from each other.
"It is also a significant chapter in the lives of our young players as the Singapore U20 team was established this year to bridge the gap between the U18s and U22s.
"Fandi has been scouting for talent by going to the various tertiary educational institutions to conduct trials and his efforts have been rewarded with this U20 squad."
Gabriel Tan is a TV and radio pundit who writes for ESPN FC and The New Paper on Southeast Asian football. Twitter: @gabetan13.