With interest in the World Cup reaching fever pitch now (oh, what happened Germany?!), we speak to local football legend Fandi Ahmad about - what else! - the greatest game in the world.
8 DAYS: Are you consumed by World Cup fever now?
FANDI AHMAD: Not fully ’cos sometimes, if the game airs a bit later, I won’t watch it. At least not live. I would in the past but not anymore ’cos I have work the next day.
Do you bet on the matches?
No, I never bet. Never ever. I’m a footballer and a coach, that’s why I don’t bet. It’s against our rules to bet.
Even if the wager is like a meal or something?
Do people ask you to predict the winner?
Yeah. That one many times lah (laughs). What to do. Just say [what I think lor].
So who are you rooting for this year?
I think Brazil is the team to beat. But I think Mexico will be the dark horse.
Two of your sons are footballers now. Are they down with World Cup fever too?
They watch but they don’t focus too much [on the matches] either. If they have training the next morning, I’ll tell them, “Eh you better sleep and record [the match] lah.”
I thought you guys would sit around and discuss the game.
Not really. I actually don’t really watch football matches until the World Cup. I do follow the other Leagues but I don’t watch all the games... only the big matches.
Is your wife Wendy [Jacobs] a World Cup fan?
She’’s not. She goes to sleep (laughs).
Where is your favourite place to watch the World Cup?
At home and on my sofa. That’s the best (laughs).
What do you snack on when a football game is on?
I just drink my Milo and relax… and maybe have some keropok (Guffaws).
Do you have any ritual when it comes to watching your favourite team play?
No, never. As footballers, we don’t really…. We are not as fanatic when it comes to watching the matches. We just enjoy the game.
But did you have any pre-game rituals when you were a pro-footballer?
Before each game, I would say a small prayer. I would also step on the field three times before going on. Sometimes, I would also take a blade of grass from the field, chew it and then swallow it while saying a prayer.
Which was the most memorable World Cup for you?
Mexico 1986 ’cos I was there to watch all the matches. Maradona was at his peak and I got to see the games featuring Argentina, France and England... everything.
So what happens when your favourite team loses?
I get very frustrated and after that I don’t want to watch already (laughs). Serious, serious.
Do you think Singapore is capable of hosting the World Cup?
If we’re talking about infrastructure, I don’t think so. We don’t have the stadiums and the facilities for training. You need at least 10 stadiums that have all the training facilities needed for the different teams. And even if it does happen, what will happen after the World Cup? We don’t even have 20 teams in the Singapore Premier League. It would be very costly to maintain [the infrastructure].
What about sending a team into the World Cup?
I think it would be tough ’cos there is no invitational team in the World Cup. If there is, we may have a chance. But I think in the future there may be more opportunities for many countries to send a team in ’cos FIFA recently announced that they will expand the World Cup to include 48 teams [instead of the current 32].
Do your sons dream about playing in the World Cup?
It’s everybody’s dream to play in the World Cup. Especially if you’re a footballer.
Which player do you like most now?
I like to watch Neymar, Ronaldo… At the end of the day, you’ll always support the team [you like] but for Ronaldo to score a hat-trick in the first match, that’s amazing.
So is watching the World Cup still serious business for you or has it become more of a time to chill out with friends?
For me, it’s become like a gathering. It’s good time to soak up the atmosphere, especially if you’re watching it outside. It only becomes very serious for those who bet [on the matches] lah (laughs).