Ilhan Fandi follows famous dad's footsteps to further football career in Europe

Albirex Niigata (Singapore) forward Ilhan Fandi celebrates scoring a hat-trick against Balestier Khalsa in the Singapore Premier League. (PHOTO: SPL)
Albirex Niigata (Singapore) forward Ilhan Fandi celebrates scoring a hat-trick against Balestier Khalsa in the 2022 Singapore Premier League. (FILE PHOTO: SPL)

SINGAPORE — Singapore national forward Ilhan Fandi, who was named the Singapore Premier League (SPL) Young Player of the Year last month, has secured a move to Belgian Second Division side KMSK Deinze.

The 20-year-old, who enjoyed a breakout season this year with Albirex Niigata (Singapore) in scoring 20 goals in all competitions, will join Deinze next month after signing a one-and-a-half-year contract which will run until 2024.

Deinze are eighth in the 12-team Challenger Pro League with five matches left in the regular season. They are also the only non top-flight club in the last 16 of the Belgian Cup.

The club made the announcement on its Twitter page, saying that Ilhan will train with their A-team, but can also be used for their Under-21 matches. Deinze also said they have entered a partnership with Albirex for their youth academy.

Albirex also confirmed Ilhan's departure on their Instagram page, adding, "At the age of 20, he is going to challenge himself abroad. We hope his success in Europe inspires the hopes and dreams of football kids in Singapore."

“I think I had a good season this year, and my goal has always been to go overseas and test myself even more in a different environment," Ilhan told The Straits Times. "I feel it’s best to make the move now.”

The third son of Singapore football great Fandi Ahmad, Ilhan will follow in the footsteps of both his dad as well as elder brothers Irfan and Ikhsan in venturing overseas to further his football career.

Fandi played for Dutch side Groningen from 1983 to1985, while Irfan and Ikhsan are now with Thailand’s BG Pathum. Ikhsan had also played for Norway’s second-tier teams Raufoss and FK Jerv from 2019 to 2021.

Ilhan is the first of Fandi's sons to win an individual honour at the annual FAS Awards Night. Besides the Young Player of the Year award, he also won the Goal of the Year and was named in the SPL Team of the Year.

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