First Lion to play in Europe in 30 years
First Fandi Ahmad, then V. Sundram Moorthy, and now Singapore has a third local-born Lion plying his trade in Europe.
After a successful one-week trial, Ikhsan Fandi, the second son of local football legend Fandi, signed a two-year deal with Norwegian second-tier club Raufoss on Satur- day, making him the first Singaporean international to join a European club in 30 years.
Sundram played for Swiss side FC Basel from 1988 to 1989, while Fandi was with Dutch team Groningen from 1983 to 1985.
While Ikhsan, 19, will kick off his European sojourn with a more obscure team away from the bright lights his father was used to, the football agent who helped broker the deal told The Straits Times Raufoss could be a useful springboard to launch his career. Mr Navjot Singh Brar said: “Ikhsan fits what Raufoss are looking for – a young striker with good potential and attitude, and we expect him to play and not just be a name on the squad list.”
He was confident that if Ikhsan played well regularly, he would be talent-spotted by a larger club.
The 1.83m, 79kg forward had a breakthrough year last year, scoring five times in eight games for Singapore from September to November, including a bicycle-kick goal in the 6-1 AFF Suzuki Cup win over TimorLeste. He also netted eight times in 20 games for the Young Lions in the Singapore Premier League.
Singapore’s Ikhsan Fandi has vowed to make an impact in Norway, after signing a two-year contract with Norwegian second-tier team Raufoss on Saturday.
The deal, worth a few thousand euros a month, made the 19-yearold the first local-born Singaporean international to join a European team in 30 years, and only the third to do so after V. Sundram Moorthy (FC Basel, 1988-89) and Ikhsan’s fa- ther, Fandi Ahmad (Groningen, 1983-1985).
Raufoss head coach Christian Johnsen told The Straits Times: “We decided to sign Ikhsan because he is a good young player with a positive mentality. We feel he has good tempo and potential. He needs to adapt to the new environment but we have belief and hope that he will play many games for Raufoss.”
Described by the club’s website as a “robust and talented player” and “an exciting signing”, Ikhsan told ST: “I’m over the moon to join Raufoss and I’m looking forward to improving my game and physique here, and help the team with my goals and assists.”
He will return to Singapore for a one-week break before re-joining his new team, who will head to Spain for pre-season matches, before kicking off the new season at Nest-Sotra on March 31.
Raufoss, who are based an 80-minute drive from Norway’s capital, Oslo, are not well known in Singapore, but they have more than a century of history. They last played in the top flight in 1974 and were promoted to the 1. divisjon after they won the 2. divisjon title last season. Their 2,500-seater Nammo Stadion has a top-grade artificial pitch and a heated indoor arena for winter use.
Ikhsan has relished the challenge – Norway’s sub-zero temperatures and all – from the get-go.
He said: “The experience was good from the first day. Raufoss is a small and quiet community where everyone seems to know everyone here. I hope soon they will get to know me! The players are very welcoming and we get along well. Everyone here speaks English.
“The training sessions were not difficult, but even the warm-up was intense and very coordinated.
“The team usually play a 4-3-3 system, which is good for me because I can play in any of those positions up front. Although they are physically strong, I don’t think the Norwegian defenders are as huge as people think, and I’m confident of holding my own against them.
“I aim to make an impact here and continue to improve in all areas. I need to raise my fitness because the game here transitions very quickly from defence to attack. If I’m playing on the wing, I’m also expected to defend from the front.”
Ikhsan is not the only Fandi plying his trade overseas this year. His older brother Irfan is in Thailand on a one-year deal with Thai League 2 side Bangkok Glass.
Said Fandi, the national Under-22s coach: “I’m happy that both Irfan and Ikhsan are going to play overseas. I hope they get to play regular football, improve and are then able to contribute more.
“Hopefully, they can do well and inspire other young footballers here to work hard and venture abroad to become better players because the more we have playing in strong leagues, the stronger our national team will become.”
Ikhsan enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2018, scoring five times in eight games for Singapore from September to November, including a bicycle-kick goal in the 6-1 AFF Cup win over Timor-Leste. He also netted eight times in 20 games for the Young Lions in the Singapore Premier League.
Johor Darul Takzim and Singapore captain Hariss Harun, who had trials and trained with Chinese Super League’s Shanghai Shenhua and Spain’s CE L’Hospitalet said the move would be “good for him (Ikhsan) and Singapore football”.
But he noted that it would take Ikhsan some time to settle: “It is a totally different life. He has to get used to being far from his family and friends. Playing in Norway is totally different from playing in South-east Asia. He is thousands of kilometres away from his comfort zone, the culture and food are different, and there will be expectations to live up to on the pitch.”
However, he was confident that the youngster would be able to ride out the challenge. “Ikhsan has had experience living and training in Chile. He seems like a strong and determined footballer with bags of potential so I think he will do well with some good luck, good coaches and good team-mates.”
Ikhsan Fandi, son of local football legend Fandi Ahmad, is the first Singaporean international to join a European club in 30 years. The 19-year-old will play for Norwegian second-tier club Raufoss.
Ikhsan Fandi on trial with Raufoss against top-tier Norwegian club Mjondalen on Saturday. He is the first local-born Singaporean in 30 years to join a European football team.