SEA Games families: Ferdous, Farhan ready to strike out on their own

SEA Games families: Ferdous, Farhan ready to strike out on their own
Portrait of silat world champion Sheik Alau'ddin (right) and sons Sheik Farhan (centre) and Sheik Ferdous in their home. Photo: Nuria Ling/TODAY
Not content to stay in dad’s shadow, Sheik Alau’ddin’s sons want to create their own legacies
Published: 7:55 PM, August 12, 2017
Updated: 12:33 PM, August 18, 2017

The 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur will be a family affair for six members of the Team Singapore contingent competing in the regional event. Hailing from football, silat, badminton, and fencing, the young athletes will be following the footsteps of their parents, who also competed and won honours for Singapore at previous editions of the SEA Games. In a four-part series ahead of the Kuala Lumpur Games, up-and-coming young footballers Irfan and Ikhsan Fandi, Sheik Farhan and Ferdous, Nur Insyirah and Nicole Wong tell TODAY what it is like growing up and playing the sport as children of Singapore’s sports personalities, how they hope to emulate their parents’ successes, and eventually make a name for themselves.

SINGAPORE – There is no hiding, and no escape when one’s last name belongs to Singapore’s most famous silat warrior.

Sheik Ferdous, the third of Sheik Alau’ddin’s brood of six children, recalled what it was like growing up as the son of the local legend, a double world champion and winner of four gold medals at the SEA Games.

“If you ask anyone in the Malay community about the sport, anyone of his generation, they all know him,” said the 21-year-old national serviceman.

“Every time someone talks about silat, if they see my face, they ask about him, if I know him. Growing up, I was known as Sheik’s son.”

And for as long as they can remember, silat has always been a part of Ferdous and his younger brother, 19-year-old Farhan’s lives.

In fact, Farhan told TODAY that he does not even remember his first try at the sport that made his father a household name.

“It’s like kindergarten…I don’t remember my first time there but it’s natural, just a part of my routine since I was young,” he said.

Ferdous added: “I grew up with silat. My dad was doing it so it was natural for us to join, follow in his footsteps. I can’t imagine my life without it.”

While his sons also dabbled in football, hockey, muay thai, and mixed martial arts (MMA), Sheik was determined that silat would be his children’s first love. He has six children, four boys and two girls whose ages range from 10 to 24.

“When they were small, and could crawl, their mum would bring them to my classes,” said Sheik, who is the chief executive officer of the Singapore Silat Federation.

“I had classes every day at the community centres, resident’s committees, mosques, including three on Saturdays and three on Sundays. All my six children did silat. My wife also does silat.”

While his eldest daughter, 24-year-old Nur Shafiqa, has since given up the sport to become an air stewardess, Ferdous and Farhan are keeping the family tradition – and Sheik’s legacy – alive. Indeed, Farhan is already a two-time world champion in the over 90-95kg class.

While he is happy to see his sons pursuing the sport, Sheik – who also coaches the national silat team – is careful not to get carried away.

His children do not get any “red carpet” treatment during training sessions at the OCBC arena.

“They don’t get special treatment during training. Maybe I’m harder on them...I scold them as much, if not more than the others,” he confessed.

“I’m sitting in the hot seat, people may look at me as though I favour my own kids so I have to be clean and straightforward.

“I pressure them because I want them to be good. I was so happy when Farhan got the first world title as that shut a lot of people’s mouths.”

Ferdous and Farhan are part of the Singapore silat contingent traveling to Kuala Lumpur this month with the goal of winning a record five gold medals at the SEA Games At the last Games held here in 2015,

Ferdous won two bronze medals in the men’s tanding class E (70kg) and artistic doubles with Muhammad Shakir Juanda.

Farhan was initially not part of the squad but stood in for an injured teammate and won a bronze in the tanding class H (85kg). The duo are gunning for gold this time, with Ferdous competing in the tanding class H and Farhan in the tanding class J (95kg).

While fiercely competitive, the brothers leave the fighting moves on the competition mat, and they enjoy playing games on their Sony Playstation 4 in their free time.

And as their focus turns to the SEA Games, Ferdous and Farhan - who was recently crowned Sportsboy of the Year at the Singapore Sports Awards - are ready to step out of their father’s shadow in their pursuit of glory in Kuala Lumpur.

“A lot of people ask if I feel pressure to win, match up to my dad,” said Farhan, who won his first world title on his debut in Phuket as a 17-year-old.

“I want to be better than him. You can’t compare yourself to others…nobody has won two world championships and four SEA games gold.

“If I achieve it, it’s not only my medal, but it’s for my coach, for Singapore.”

Ferdous added: “My dad definitely did something prominent, and everyone knows who he is and what he achieved.

“I’m okay with being Sheik’s son…but I want to achieve that level, so that they know me for who I am, what I’ve achieved.”