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NEXT-GEN STORIES: How Padang Fandi inspired Ayden to chase the football dream, like dad Fazrul Nawaz

They were once some of the top footballers of their time. But even though they may have retired, football remains in their blood. Meet these ex-internationals and their next generation of young footballers - sons and daughters of former national players who are keen to follow in the footsteps of mommy and daddy.

Former Singapore footballer Fazul Nawaz is not one to shy away from a challenge. After all, it was his swashbuckling, all-action approach to the game that saw the former national striker play his part in winning two Asean titles for the Lions and the 2013 Malaysian Super League with the LionsXII.

So when the 38-year-old was urged to take on his son Ayden Naim Fakhry in a race, Fazrul gamely took on his 13-year-old boy. Despite fears of not being as "fit" as his son, both father and son took turns leaving the other in their wake. The result? A 1-1 tie, after some playful banter and jostling that would probably have earned dad a yellow card for "bullying kecil".

Fazrul (left) and son Ayden enjoy a close relationship that allows them to their share their love for football. Photo by Ng Chrong Meng.

The race took place at one of Yishun's most famous footballing landmarks: Padang Fandi - named after Singapore football icon Fandi Ahmad.

The field is located along Yishun Street 72 and residents are split on how it got its name. Some say it was because Fandi used to live nearby and was seen playing there a few times. Others said it was because the field was used as part of Fandi's marriage ceremony. But one thing everyone is in agreement with - it is the place where young football talents in Yishun go to hone their skills.

The field is also where Ayden does his training alongside his friends, sometimes under the watchful eye of Fazrul.

Despite growing up in Woodlands, it was his time spent at Padang Fandi which had the strongest impact on Ayden. The second eldest of Fazrul's five children, he would train and play with the neighborhood kids, especially on the weekends or evenings when more of the kids would come to the field. Ayden enjoys the close bond he shares with his friends of all races and ages.

“I enjoy playing here especially when there are lots of people from different backgrounds," said Ayden.

"There is a strong community spirit and we take turns to bring balls and goalposts. When it's packed, like during the evenings and weekends, the atmosphere is like being in a carnival and I enjoy it.

"Even if we do not know each other, we can still come together and enjoy a game of football and showcase our dribbling and shooting." 

Nestled in the heart of Yishun, Padang Fandi, as locals affectionately term it, is the neighbourhood's go-to-place for pick up games and friendly football. Photo by Ng Chrong Meng.

Ayden's hard work on Padang Fandi is paying off as he got the nod to be part of the National Development Centre Under-13 team and has also been accepted into the Singapore Sports School to play football.

The avid Manchester United fan looks up to Cristiano Ronaldo and hope to emulate the Portuguese forward's discipline, hard work and determination. Similar to his idol, Ayden plays as a midfielder on both wings, though he prefers to cut in from the right side as he is a left-footer. 

Fazrul reckons Ayden's strong work ethic is his son's biggest strength.

“It fills me and my wife (Diana Hussein) lots of happiness and excitement when we see Ayden really pushing himself to be a footballer and follow in my footsteps," said Fazrul, whose football career saw him play on both sides of the Causeway.

Fazrul still remembers fondly Ayden's introduction to the game.

He said: "I was doing my training under my block and Ayden wanted to follow me and play with me. The first few sessions, I focused on his technique and ball control. He liked it and then every weekend I would bring him along to my coaching session at Little League academy."

Fazrul (left), who now coaches both in schools and the national set-up, often takes time out to impart some of his skills and experience to Ayden. Photo by Ng Chrong Meng.

The rest, as they say, is history. Once Ayden got a biggest taste of football, he never looked back.

Despite the promising start to his football journey, Fazrul is under no illusions that the journey for Ayden will be a long and hard one. While Ayden has shown some promise, he needs to keep working on his technique and push himself to work even harder to keep improving.

“To be honest, for what I have seen and been through in my football journey, I never expected him to pick up football. But he chose football just like his dad!" laughed Fazrul, who is now part of the Football Association of Singapore's national women's team coaching set-up.

Fazrul (left) knows that the journey to be a professional football is a long and hard one. But if Ayden wants to chase his footballing dreams, he will be behind his son, supporting him and cheering Ayden on. Photo by Ng Chrong Meng.

"I told him that since he has decided to pursue football, I'm going to give him my full support. He’s going to go through many football experiences, some good, some bad. They will help him to be a better player and grow as a person. But I told him that I will always be there for him. The most important thing is for him to have fun and enjoy the sport that he chose. No pressure."

Story by: Mashidayat Maszeni

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