Being Fandi Ahmad is not easy. He’s a national football legend, the head coach of the Lions XII, a role model, a loving husband, and a devoted father to five children―all rolled into one.
Passionate and humble at the same time, he believes in imparting strong values, such as independence and resilience, to his children.
In this exclusive interview with theAsianparent, Fandi Ahmad talks to us about family life and fatherhood. Read on for a sneak peek into the life of this Singaporean sports hero.
The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Fandi Ahmad enjoys his role as a father and makes sure he always makes time for his children, despite his hectic travel schedule
Q. How do you manage to balance your time between career and family?
A: My career involves a lot of travel. When I took up the offer to work in Indonesia, I brought my whole family along with me. My kids are used to travelling. And when I travel, my kids always know that I’ll be back, so they’re okay with it.
Once a week or a month, we’ll spend time together by heading out for dinner. This is usually on Sundays because that’s when I come back from travelling and have dinner together with the kids.
As parents, both Wendy (my wife) and I split the responsibilities. For example, I’ll send the kids to school in the morning and she’ll pick them up in the afternoon.
Q. How do you make it up to your family, for all the missed milestones?
A: Before I leave, we’ll always have dinner together or have a family outing like window shopping and catching a movie. When I’m away, I’ll either text them or give them a call to check up on them.
Q. What’s it like being a dad to four boys and a girl?
A: It’s beautiful! Our first two kids are boys. My wife and I wanted a girl and we had one. We wanted to try for another girl and got two more boys instead! It was meant to be. So the boys must protect their sister, Iman, because she’s in the middle. Iman has people surrounding her and protecting her all the time.
To have many kids is not easy but they’re a joy to be around.
Fandi Ahmad gives his wife, Wendy the credit for making sure that family life continues seamlessly.
Q. What are some of the challenges that you face as a father?
A: I have three teenagers, so Wendy and I worry that at that age, they might go astray. We give them independence and freedom as long as they obey the rules. If they don’t come back home early then they should inform us by either texting or calling. They are independent kids and I trust them.
Q. What are some of your most beautiful memories as a father?
A: It was the first time that I stepped into fatherhood and I carried my first child, Irfan. It’s hard to describe in words but I know that it felt out of this world. The joy of holding your baby for the first time is a wonderful feeling.
Read on to find out how Fandi Ahmad keeps the magic alive with his wife Wendy.
Q. What would you say to your wife, Wendy Jacobs, for playing a pivotal role in your life?
A: She’s everything to me and to the kids. I’m away a lot and Wendy is like a mother and father to them during those times. She takes care of them very well including making sure they eat, reminding them of their day-to-day activities, and even sending them for training one after another. Wendy’s like a super mum! She’s organised, does everything well and in order. I couldn’t ask for more.
Q. How do you spend time with Wendy with the busy schedule?
A: Sometimes there isn’t enough time but Wendy is very understanding about it. Before we had kids, we used to go out on dates but now that rarely happens. Also, my family goes to bed early―at 8:30pm. It’s because of their school that Wendy will tell the kids to sleep early.
However, when I’m free, I’ll take her out. It doesn’t always have to be to a fancy restaurant, it can just be a simple restaurant nearby. We don’t necessarily have to head to town to eat unless it’s with the family.
Q. What impact has fame had on your family life?
A: It’s difficult for my kids. People will usually be like, “Oh, you’re Fandi Ahmad’s son or daughter.” It’s not easy for them to carry themselves but so far, they’ve been well-behaved and know their boundaries. They understand expectations. I just tell them to be humble and act normal.
However, when it comes to football, it’s a different thing altogether. When they find out that you’re Fandi Ahmad’s son, they’ll kick you or try to irritate you. I just tell them that football is like that, you’ve got to be strong mentally. It’s as much a mind game as a physical one.
If you’re strong, nobody can touch you. Just play according to your ability. If people kick you, it means that you’re a good player. It has not been easy for the kids, but so far, they’ve managed well.
Fandi Ahmad hopes that his eldest son, Irfan will be a better footballer than him.
Q. What are your thoughts on people saying that Irfan is going to be the next you?
A: I don’t think he’ll be the next me. I think he’ll be himself! His abilities and mine are different. It’s very hard for Irfan to be compared to me because he comes from a different generation.
He’s still young and has a long way to go, but he’s very lucky because he’s been travelling since [he was young] and is familiar with the trade. Time is on his side. Who knows? Maybe one day he’ll be like me or even better. Actually, I hope he’ll be better than me.
Head on over to the next page to find out what advice Fandi Ahmad has for his children.
Q. Your late father was a former national goalkeeper. How has he inspired you as a father and a footballer?
A: I have idolised him since I was young. When I was a kid, every weekend morning he would gather all the kids in our kampung and we would run together. He would train and teach them. He was like a leader there.
When I was 12, I told my father that I wanted to be a footballer.
He said that if that was what I wanted, I would have to work extra hard and put in additional time to train to build my skills and be good at it. He coached me, taught me how to be a good player and how to train. He advised me to work very hard and that has inspired me a lot.
When we won the recent Malaysian FA Cup finals, I dedicated it to my father. He passed away about six months ago and I was sad that he couldn’t be there, but that’s life.
He was a very hard-working and disciplined man. I encourage my own kids to be the same, too.
Q. As a dad, what advice would you give to your kids?
A: Most important thing is to balance your studies, know your true ambitions and to pursue them. When the boys told me that they wanted to be footballers, I told then that once you start you cannot stop; you must try to go on until you achieve your dreams.
And sometimes you may not achieve your dream, but the journey itself would have taught you a lot.
Ultimately, only God can decide your fate but if you work hard, I believe you can make things happen. Always give your best and never give up. And if you fail, just pick yourself up and try again. Failure is what motivates you to achieve that goal even more.
Fandi Ahmad encourages his kids by giving them moral support.
Q. What advice do you have for parents who have kids wanting to be footballers?
A: First and foremost, we must encourage our kids to take up sports. It doesn’t have to be just football. Exercising teaches you to have a healthy state of mind and also teaches you a lot of discipline.
If your kids want to be a footballer then that’s good. However, parents cannot give their kids false hope that they can be a national football player. It also depends on their child’s talent.
If they make it big then that’s great but if they don’t make it to the national team then that’s okay, too. They can still play the sport as a hobby or for football clubs. They don’t necessarily have to be a professional footballer.
As parents, the most important thing is to encourage and support them.
theAsianparent would like to thank Fandi Ahmad for this exclusive interview and we wish him and his family the very best!
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