It is every striker’s dream to walk away as the Golden Boot winner of a major tournament, but Singapore’s Ikhsan Fandi is putting the team before himself as he prepares for his AFF Suzuki Cup debut.
The 19-year-old heads into the tournament having established himself as the Lions’ main striker after Fandi Ahmad, Singapore’s interim head coach, rejuvenated the lineup by placing a strong emphasis on giving youngsters a chance.
Ikhsan, who is Fandi’s second eldest son, became a hit almost instantly and proved a reliable source for goals having scored thrice in four international friendly matches against Cambodia, Mongolia, Fiji and Mauritius. His seamless introduction to the international stage however meant that extreme pressure is on his shoulders, but Ikhsan is raring to go.
“I think being in it (in the spotlight) is not a bad thing and that pressure actually helps my game,” Ikhsan told FOX Sports Asia. “But football is a team sport and I’m only playing my part within the team so I hope the fans look at us as a team, instead of singling out players.
“We need everyone to work together to score goals and it will be impossible for me to score if we don’t attack as one.”
Ikhsan admitted that the thought of winning the golden boot has crossed his mind as well, but it was just “one of those passing moments”.
“This is my first year with the national team and it will be my first Suzuki Cup so I am not thinking that far,” he explained. “If we play well and create a lot of chances, I’ll try and finish as many of them and anything can happen.”
Experienced forward Khairul Amri, who is a veteran at the AFF Suzuki Cup with 10 tournament goals to his name, has singled out Ihksan, who has accumulated eight international caps so far, as a player who could go on to become the star of the tournament as well.
But Ikhsan refused to let the plaudits get into his head. Instead, he credited Amri for his mentoring skills, which has helped him assimilate into the team quickly despite lacking experience at the international level.
“Amri is a quiet guy but as a senior, he gives me advice in training and always tells me to finish my chances whether it is shooting practice or in a game,” said Ikhsan.
“I didn’t have a (goal) target before this (week) but now that we are getting closer, it starts coming into your mind. The key is for us as Singapore to win games but as a striker, it is my duty to score goals… I don’t have an exact number in mind,” said the Young Lions striker.
Ikhsan’s task may not be an easy one, as Singapore’s Group B opponents include defending champions Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Timor-Leste. But the youngster believes that it is also an opportunity for him to showcase his capability on a bigger stage – displaying the same fearless trait whenever he dons the Singapore jersey.
“This is a really big competition and this platform is where all the best players from Southeast Asia gather and show what they are made of,” Ikhsan said.
“It is perfect for any player to showcase our talents, especially for young players like me to play our game and impress any scouts who are watching.”
Ikhsan’s first opportunity to open his Suzuki Cup account will come on Friday when the Lions entertain Bima Sakti’s Indonesia at the National Stadium. Ticket sales have almost reached 30,000 and the partisan crowd will be rooting for the young striker to get the job done.