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An Intern’s Perspective: I met Fandi Ahmad. Here’s what happened.

By: Dorothy Ng

Reading to Discover a Whole New World

As a young child, I loved to read. I enjoyed my morning trips to Ang Mo Kio Public Library. I fondly remember the cold of the air-con against my skin and my excitement when I found the book I was searching for peeking out from the shelf.

As I grew older, I developed a much deeper interest in books and had the money to start my own collection of them, from English Fiction (with authors like Michael Grant and Roald Dahl) to Japanese Literature (with my now favourite author Haruki Murakami). Personally, I enjoyed the idea of owning books and creating my own collection because it’s a reminder of how much I have read and have yet to read.

Though digital copies are now readily available, I still prefer the physical feel of a book in my hand as the act of finishing the last page gives me a sense of satisfaction, like a goal was achieved.

It also helped to broaden my perspective on life and gave me deeper insights into the things around me.

I have grown up with primarily international influences, having stayed abroad for most of my childhood and having the pleasure of travelling extensively. Most of my lifestyle choices and upbringing have been influenced by non-local artists, and have been that way for the longest time I can remember. No matter where I was physically, I always kept a part of the world with me through the plot of a good book.

I Discovered Fandi Ahmad

As someone who has lived abroad and not a football fan, I was not familiar with the name Fandi Ahmad. I first heard the name Fandi Ahmad when I joined WriteHaus Asia as an intern. The preparation for a book launch was underway.

With time, the name Fandi Ahmad became a part of my everyday life. I also realised that the event was to not only celebrate the birth of a book, but also honour the legacy of a man who had contributed to the local sports scene.

My journey with Fandi began remotely. However, I have heard many positive things about Fandi from both friends and family, which really piqued my interest in the man himself. After doing some research to understand Fandi’s career, I was genuinely surprised that I was unable to find that much non-football related information about him, which really bolstered my curiosity about him and his family!

With Writehaus, my focus was to plan, produce, and execute social media content before, during and after the biography launch — I had to design a varying number of graphics and consider WriteHaus’ and Fandi’s target audience.

This meant having to do research on the things that his audience and he himself would like to see. During the process of watching his interviews and looking at his past games I learnt a lot about him, and it seemed to align with what was shared with me — he is a funny, charming, and above all, very humble person.

During our car ride to an event, I was at a loss for words. Up until that point, I had only seen him in photographs and on-screen. Seeing him in person and being with him in the car felt surreal!

The entire time during the car ride, Fandi tried his best to interact with me whenever he could, by telling us little anecdotes and thoughts about the day he had, whilst looking into the rear-view mirror to ensure that I knew he was talking to me.

His relatable personality shone through that day. Though beloved by Singaporeans from all walks of life, he didn’t have the air of a man who has played in sold-out stadiums. If I didn’t know any better, he carried himself like an average joe. The love and support he continues to receive finally made sense.

I discovered Fandi’s influence

The next time I got to see Fandi was on the day of the book launch. The book launch was graced by Minister Edwin Tong (Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law) as the guest of honour. It had over 200 guests who were the who’s who of the sports and media fraternity.

Minister Edwin Tong (Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law) and Fandi launching the biography!

I was overwhelmed by the sight of everyone eager to see Fandi launch his biography. They were there not to support him, but also his life and career journey. His influence was evident during that event — people gathered there were those who have supported and cheered his forty-year career. Someday, I wish to have that too.

On the day of the event, I saw the entire place done — it was transformed from an empty hall to an event space. The best part? I saw the graphics I designed all over the venue — I have never had my work displayed before, much less at an event where over 200 people will be attending! Just as happiness seeped in, the realisation that many people would be looking at my work made me feel very anxious. What if they didn’t like it?

As the intern, my main tasks for the event were to act as a runner to any member of the team if they needed help and to take as many behind-the-scenes photos as possible. I wanted to show the essence of what the event meant to Fandi and WriteHaus Asia who planned and organised the event. My aim was to capture smiles, intimate moments between old friends catching up, new friends being acquainted, and new opportunities being created through networking.

Being able to witness the guests take in the atmosphere of the event is something I will always hold close to my heart. Guests seemed immersed as they made their way through the décor, looking at the feature wall and tables with the books and reading the book excerpts and quotes I designed – it was a delightful sight to behold!

Fandi Ahmad was at the heart of it — speaking, shaking hands and giving everyone a moment of his time. Though I was not yet born when Fandi played, I could imagine through the lens of the event how he would have united a nation. 

Feeling a little overwhelmed with the tasks in the morning, I was facing difficulty in having to arrange the seat names and numbers according to the seating plan – at the time, there were just simply too many names for me to stick up by myself. With only a pair of scissors and scotch tape, I was worried I would not be able to finish in time.

Additionally, knowing how little sleep the team had the night before, many of us were jittery, but everyone remained composed and focused on the tasks at hand. kept their cool, remained calm, and as. As someone who had never been a part of a large-scale event, it really helped me narrow down and focus on whoever and wherever needed assistance at the time.

As a mass media student, I learned a valuable lesson — teamwork makes the dream work. Trust and confidence in the team I was working with are important. I had to be sure that we could resolve any situation that came our way. Events are unpredictable and despite careful planning, things can go awry. So, it is important to be calm and take things as they come.

I got to see professionals at work, as the event was covered by every media outlet in Singapore, from Straits Times to CNA, I was amazed at their professionalism. As an aspiring media professional, I hope to learn their techniques for my future projects as well.

When I was taking pictures of the event, I spotted a very familiar looking man standing all by himself near the walls. I approached him to ask if he was Quek Hong Shin (the illustrator of Fandi: Honour and Sacrifice). I then shared with him how much I enjoyed his illustrations for the book, as it helped me visualise what Fandi was like back when he was young.

“You know who I am?” he says, with his eyes sparkling.

I could tell it made him happy in the moment to be recognised for his contributions to Fandi: Honour and Sacrifice, and that to me is a memory to cherish forever.

Our conversation was brief as I was whisked away to my other duties, but I’d like to think that moment is something I’d hold onto for a while. I am not an illustrator myself, but as a media student, I understand what it feels like to know that people see your work more than you. 

Another moment from this event that will stay etched in my mind forever was when the surprise birthday video I edited finally played across the big auditorium. Having the designs I did for Fandi’s book excerpts displayed was already a pleasant surprise for me, but the video was something I had full creative control over –  from the first time I edited the clips together (shuffling clips, picking soundtracks, as well as ensuring the messages from Singaporeans and his overseas friends that wished him made sense and had a nice flow to it), to testing it out during our rehearsal dates, to finally watching it play in front of him and many of his invited guests.

At that moment, watching Fandi’s unfiltered reaction to my video, I understood what honour and sacrifice meant to Fandi. It was the foundation of his entire career.

I understood the importance of Singapore to him, and the phrase “Honour and Sacrifice” suddenly took on a different meaning. Playing for his country meant the world to him. And now, though I’ve seen just a small portion of what he had to give up in his life for his career, I can tell that it meant a lot to him that he made an impact on Singaporeans who grew up watching him, on his teammates in Holland, with whom he had the chance to play with as the first Asian in Europe for football. 

To me, this video was a way for me to make a small impact on him, and hopefully, in my own way, share with him the impact he has on others (nostalgia, hope, and happiness).

Minister Edwin Tong (Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law), Fandi and Wendy watching the birthday surprise video I created.

I Discovered Honour and Sacrifice

I felt grateful to have just gotten the chance to be able to be part of such an event with a wonderful team as well as being able to pick up various interpersonal and valuable soft skills.

I have now learned that to succeed one has to honour their dreams and be prepared to make sacrifices — Fandi: Honour and Sacrifice, is now more than just a book, rather, it is a testament to Fandi’s contribution to the football scene.

Fandi and me at the ME2 event!

Fandi’s fans find themselves united once again through Fandi’s biography, just like how they were through his matches. A living proof that a story can bring people together and transport them to a different time-just like how I got transported to a different place when I read a good book.

As a young Singaporean, it encourages me to pursue my dreams with conviction and hard work with hopes that someone might think my story is worthy to write about. Seeing my boss, Ms. Durga, finally receive well-deserved recognition as a gifted writer, warmed my heart and gave me hope that one day I, too, will be able to receive respect for what I enjoy doing with the people I care about by my side.

Fandi: Honour & Sacrifice is now available on fandibook.com

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