Irfan Fandi
Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy backs Irfan's (C) defensive capabilities Reuters

Tampines Rovers skipper Madhu Mohana has lauded centre-back Irfan Fandi, saying players like the Home United teenager will be key to the success of Singapore football in future.

Madhu was unable to take the field for Singapore during their Middle East trip in the last international break -- which included the AFC Asian Cup 2019 Qualifiers opener against Bahrain -- due to a suspension he carried from last year. The national team coach V Sundramoorthy recalled Fandi to play at the heart of the defence along with Tampines' Daniel Bennett.

After impressing during their 2-1 defeat to Afghanistan in their international friendly in Qatar on 23 March, the son of legendary Singapore international Fandi Ahmad wore the Lions' shirt five days later in their goalless draw against Bahrain, which was also the 19-year-old's first competitive match for the senior team.

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Madhu expressed his disappointed for not helping Singapore in their tie against Bahrain. Dispite the frustration, he was impressed with Fandi's display and sugegsted that he is eager to help younger players cope up with the pressures of international football.

"Not being able to play did affect me as I really wanted to help the team on the field. However, I am happy with our performance against Bahrain. Irfan is a young and upcoming player, and I thought he played well against Bahrain," Madhu told International Business Times Singapore.

"Playing at such a high level will definitely benefit him [Irfan] and give him the exposure a young player needs. Players like him are the future of Singapore football, and I am glad to pass on my experience to the younger players coming into the national team."

Fandi once again drew praise for the way he led the backline along with Bennett and the duo made sure Sundramoorthy's men came home with a point from Riffa. Replacing Madhu, who partnered with his Tampines teammate to good effect at the AFF Suzuki Cup last year, was not considered an easy task but the Protectors defender did well to keep the Bahraini attackers at bay.

The utility footballer, who can play in the attack, centre of the pitch and in the back four, made his international debut for the senior team during their 2-0 defeat to Hong Kong last October.

He was once regarded as one of the best upcoming strikers, but Sundaramoorthy sees him more suited to the role of a central-defender due to his good physical presence and ball-winning capabilities and the teenager has been proving his worth at his new position for Home in the local league as well.