SINGAPORE — It has been a superb couple of months for Singapore football great Fandi Ahmad's three sons - Irfan, Ikhsan and Ilhan.
Irfan and Ikhsan, who play for top-tier Thai side BG Pathum United, won the first silverware with their club on 6 August, when they defeated rivals Buriram United 3-2 to clinch the Thailand Champions Cup, with forward Ikhsan scoring Pathum's second goal.
Then on 19 August, the two brothers became the first Singaporean footballers to reach the AFC Champions League quarter-finals, after Pathum defeated Hong Kong's Kitchee 4-0 in the round-of-16 in Japan. Ikhsan led the way with a powerful long-range goal for his side's second goal.
Their younger brother Ilhan is also blossoming into a lethal scorer in the Singapore Premier League (SPL). Since joining top side Albirex Niigata (Singapore) from the Young Lions in April, the 19-year-old has found a rich vein of scoring form, with 12 goals plundered in 11 games - including a brilliant bicycle kick en route to a hat-trick against Balestier Khalsa.
With all three brothers blossoming into players to watch in Southeast Asia, it begs the question: Can they cut it in the top Asian leagues, maybe even European leagues?
Eric Ong, who is the team manager of the Singapore national senior side, believes "100 per cent" that Fandi's three sons can cut it in the Asian leagues, during a discussion on them at Yahoo News Singapore's "Footballing Weekly" show.
"We don't have just look at Europe, there are better leagues in Asia such as the J-League in Japan," he said. "If they can get a chance to play in Japan, they will be playing week in, week out with top players in Asia."
Co-host Neil Humphreys believes that Irfan and Ikhsan are doing Singapore football a favour by venturing to play overseas throughout most of their careers.
"Sometimes you have to leave to get better. Leonel Messi left when he was 13 to go to Barcelona. Cristiano Ronaldo left the island of Madeira when he was 12 to go to Lisbon," he said during the show.
"Fandi said before that he wants his boys to experience as many different leagues, as many different types of football cultures and lifestyles as possible, so they can adapt. It's wonderful that young Singaporean footballers can see a pathway to follow Fandi's boys to success."
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