Football: Singapore striker Ikhsan Fandi to stay at Norwegian second-division side Raufoss

Ikhsan Fandi (centre) is remaining upbeat despite not being able to make a move up. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Singapore's only European-based international footballer Ikhsan Fandi is staying at Norwegian second-division side Raufoss IL after negotiations to move to top-tier IK Start broke down before the transfer window closed on Tuesday (June 30).

Ikhsan's agent, Navjot Singh Brar, who facilitated Ikhsan's two-year deal with Raufoss in January last year, told The Straits Times the move did not materialise as the Eliteserien club and player could not agree on salary terms and contract length.

Declining to reveal details, he added: "We understand that Covid-19 has led to financial uncertainties, but we also want what's best for Ikhsan, and we think he deserves a better contract. What was offered was too low and too long.

"Hence, he will stay and continue to develop with Raufoss. With his ability and attitude, it won't be long before he plays in the top division of a European league. He adapted very well in different positions in a physical and high-intensity environment, and we see him as a natural No. 9 because of his ability to get into scoring positions and finish."

Several top-tier sides in Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Poland are monitoring Ikhsan's progress, with the Eliteserien transfer window reopening on Sept 8.

He scored six goals in 28 appearances (12 starts) - averaging a goal every 215 minutes - in his debut season in Europe.

In March, the 21-year-old impressed during a trial with two-time Norwegian champions Start, and scored in a 2-0 friendly win over second-tier Grorud. Start coach Johannes Hardarson said then: "He fits the profile of the striker we are looking for and the chances are pretty good that we sign him."

While the Eliteserien kicked off last month after a 10-week delay - Start are 14th out of 16 teams. The second tier begins on Friday with Raufoss playing at recently relegated Tromso.

Despite not being able to make a move up, Ikhsan is remaining upbeat as Raufoss aim to finish in the top six for at least a play-off spot.

He told ST: "Things may not have worked out for now, but my aim has always been to play in the top division of the top European leagues, and I'm going to stay positive and continue to work towards that.

"The first step is to establish myself in the Raufoss first XI, and do better in terms of performance and goal output. I'm grateful for the opportunities that I have got at Raufoss, where there are a young team that get along well and push each other forward.

"I have learnt a lot in my time here and feel I am more composed now and making more effective offensive runs."

He also shared how the coronavirus pandemic affected the Norwegian leagues and training.

After returning from the Start trial, he served a 14-day home quarantine as Norway imposed a lockdown in March.

It was not until mid-May that Raufoss resumed training.

He said: "At that time, there was still no contact allowed. It was mainly running, and passing and shooting drills. We also had possession exercises but it was more side-to-side stuff, and it felt like we were on a foosball table.

"It didn't feel so weird because we were all just happy to be back on the field with the football. And around two weeks later, training went back to full contact.

"It is now normal in that sense, but also not the same as our kit man will sanitise all the equipment, which is a reminder of the situation we are in now."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.