More work ahead for Raufoss' recruit Ikhsan
Lions forward, 19, vows to work on fitness after joining Norwegian second-tier side
Singapore international forward Ikhsan Fandi has made a huge step in his footballing career, after becoming the first Lion to join a European club in 16 years.
But the 19-year-old knows that there's hard work ahead after signing a two-year deal with Norwegian second-tier side Raufoss IL on Saturday.
Besides having to adapt to a new culture and playing conditions, he is also aware that he needs to improve on his fitness to cope with the higher intensity of play in Europe.
When asked how he is adapting to the wintry conditions, where temperatures can go as low as minus-9 deg C, he said: "To be honest, the cold isn't the biggest factor. It's not that bad.
"My body just needs time to acclimatise. In the cold, your muscles get tighter. But, in training, so far so good. Just that I need to work on my fitness in the cold weather."
Ikhsan, who became the fourth Singapore international to play in Europe after his father Fandi (FC Groningen, 1983-85), V. Sundram Moorthy (FC Basel, 1988-89) and Daniel Bennett (Wrexham, 2002-03), said he will be doing extra work on his fitness when he returns to Singapore for a week before rejoining Raufoss. Their season starts in March.
Said Ikhsan: "Their transition from defence to attack is very fast. So I need to get my fitness back on par."
Ikhsan joined Raufoss for trials last week and played in a friendly on Saturday, when they lost 3-1 to Mjondalen.
The 1.83m-tall forward came on as a substitute in the 64th minute, while another new signing, defender Parfait Bizoza, also made an appearance.
Despite being given limited playing time, the Raufoss website described both newcomers as "exciting players". Ikhsan was offered the contract soon after the match.
Expressing his joy at fulfilling his dream, Ikhsan added that this is just the first step.
He said: "I'm very happy to have joined Raufoss as it has always been my dream to play in Europe and I've always wanted to be a better footballer. This is one big step.
"I want to do as much as I can for the team. My goal is to help them finish as high as possible and who knows, if I play well, maybe the top-tier teams will take notice."
Ikhsan's older brother Irfan will also be playing abroad, having joined Thai second-tier club Bangkok Glass this season.
Both brothers had played key roles in the Lions' Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup campaign late last year.
Their father, national Under-22 coach Fandi, hopes they will benefit from the overseas stints and, in turn, give Singapore football a lift.
Said Fandi: "I'm very happy that the two boys will be playing overseas.
"I hope they improve their football and that the experience and exposure they gain will help our national team and Under-22s. I also hope that this will also inspire more of our players to go abroad."