Football: Ilhan Fandi, 18, follows in his father and brothers' footsteps with Lions call-up

Ilhan Fandi dribbling during national football team training at the ActiveSG field in Geylang on March 23, 2021.
Ilhan Fandi dribbling during national football team training at the ActiveSG field in Geylang on March 23, 2021.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - The Quah family was synonymous with Singapore football for almost four decades from the 1950s and the Lions look set to welcome another band of brothers after Ilhan Fandi became the latest son of Fandi Ahmad to earn a call-up to the Singapore national team.

On Tuesday (March 23), the 18-year-old, who is undergoing National Service, was one of seven new faces to take to the pitch at Geylang Field in Tatsuma Yoshida's first training session in a year following the coronavirus pandemic.

Ilhan's older siblings Ikhsan, 21, and Irfan, 23, are regulars in the squad, though both were not present as they are based overseas. Striker Ikhsan is in Norway where he plays for first division club Jerv while Irfan, a centre-back, has just won the Thai top-flight title with BG Pathum United.

Besides Ilhan, the other additions in the squad of 24 are Fashah Iskandar, Ryhan Stewart, Lionel Tan, Tajeli Salamat, Nur Adam Abdullah and Saifullah Akbar as Yoshida checks out the local-based players from the seven Singapore Premier League clubs. The workouts are until Saturday.

Ilhan, who has one goal and an assist from three matches for the Young Lions in the SPL this season, said he was in camp when he received the good news from team manager Eric Ong. He added: "I wasn't expecting it but it's obviously a good feeling.

"This is just the start for me. I'm glad to be training with senior players so I can improve my development, because I'm still young and just grateful for the opportunity."

His inclusion resembles that of Quah Kim Song, who at the age 17, was roped into the national team in 1969, joining brothers Kim Swee and Kim Lye.

For four decades, at least one of them featured for the Lions, starting from Kim Beng in 1954, Kim Swee in the 1950s-1970s and Kim Song, who played for the country from 1968 to 1983.

Ilhan said: "Both of them are already regulars in the team so I need to start working my socks off and try and get in the team.

"But that's not the main priority now. The main priority is to just work hard and see how it goes."

One area he has seen improvement is his physique, after urging from Fandi and Ikhsan. Before his enlistment in April 2020, Ilhan weighed 62kg and stood at 1.78m. He has since gained nine kilograms and is now 1.82m tall.

The last time the Lions came together for training was in March last year before the Covid-19 outbreak led to the postponement of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers.

The team is expected to continue its campaign in June, when the remaining three Group D matches are played in Saudi Arabia.

Yoshida, 46, was pleased with what he saw from the group. On Ilhan, he said: "He has different abilities, especially in front of goal... it's easy for him to score goals. But now of course, he must get more experience."

The Japanese is also hopeful sibling rivalry will benefit the Republic. He said: "Compared to his brother Ikhsan, I don't know who is better but maybe we'll see good competition (between them). Ilhan is just 18. Now there is just the potential and that is not enough.

"Ikhsan has the experience but Ilhan is still a young boy. But he can be a help for us and hopefully (he can add the experience)."