SINGAPORE — Singapore football great Fandi Ahmad emerged tops in an online poll by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Asia’s greatest Dutch Eredivisie players.
He beat out illustrious Asian players such as former Manchester United stalwart Park Ji-sung, Japan international midfielder Shinji Ono and Iranian striker Reza Ghoochannejhad in the poll, which closed on Friday afternoon (12 June).
The 58-year-old earned 37 per cent of the 28,631 online votes, eclipsing Ghoochannejhad (28 per cent) and another Iranian striker Alireza Jahanbakhsh (25 per cent). Park surprisingly received just 8 per cent of the votes, while Ono had just 1 per cent.
“At my age, this is a pleasant surprise. Also, many of the other nominees have won Dutch titles, and I have not,” Fandi told The Straits Times. “I’m thankful for family, friends and fans around who voted for me and remember my hard work.”
First Singaporean to play for top European club
Fandi became the first Singaporean to play for a top-tier European football club when he joined FC Groningen on a two-year deal in 1983. He had earlier turned down a three-year contract with Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam.
The fleet-footed striker, only 21 then, made his mark immediately by scoring twice on his debut, and eventually amassed 11 goals in 36 matches for the Dutch club. Most memorably, he found the net against Italian giants Inter Milan in the UEFA Cup competition a few days after his successful debut.
Groningen fans voted him as their most popular player in his first season in 1983/84, but injuries marred his second season with the club. A three-year extension in 1987 was ultimately scuppered due to work-permit issues.
Besides Park (PSV Eindhoven), Ono (Feyenoord Rotterdam), Jahanbakhsh (Nijmegen, Alkmaar) and Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen, Zwolle), the other footballers selected for the poll are: Australia’s Brett Holman (Excelsior, Nijmegen, Alkmaar) and Jason Culina (Ajax, De Graafschap, Twente, PSV), and South Korea’s Lee Young-pyo (PSV) and Huh Jung-moo (PSV).
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