News • December 13, 2022

Ilhan Fandi to become first Singaporean to play in Belgium


Ilhan Fandi with DMSK Deinze owner Hiroyuki Ono at a press conference held at Jalan Besar Stadium, 13 December 2022. Image credits: Playmaker SG


SINGAPORE, 13 DECEMBER 2022 – A European adventure awaits Ilhan Fandi next year after the Singapore international sealed a move to Belgium’s KMSK Deinze on a one-and-a-half-year contract.


The transfer to the Belgian second-tier side was announced yesterday by Albirex Niigata (S), whom Ilhan helped to glory in the 2022 AIA Singapore Premier League (SPL) by scoring 15 goals in 18 matches after joining them in April.


The forward, who turned 20 last month and has four international caps, is set to become the first Singaporean to play in Belgium and has penned a deal that runs from January 2023 to June 2024.


Ilhan, who tallied 20 goals and five assists from 27 matches across all competitions, said at a press conference at Jalan Besar Stadium earlier today that he had always targeted an overseas move.


“Since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to play in Europe,” he said. “I am privileged and honored to be given this opportunity. I am going to take this with both hands and do my best for the team. I want to carry the Singapore flag high and make Singaporeans proud too.” Ilhan added that his decision to play in Belgium will open more doors for him to play in other neighboring European countries.


Deinze are currently playing in the 12-team Challenger Pro League for a third season running after their promotion in 2020 as Belgian First Amateur Division champions. They are currently eighth in the league and are also the only non-top-flight club in the last 16 of the Belgian Cup.


Deinze owner Hiroyuki Ono explained that Ilhan was signed due to his impressive performances in the SPL. “I believe Ilhan has a lot of potential and is at a good age to continue improving,” he said. “Most importantly, he has displayed mental readiness and maturity, which convinced us that he will overcome the challenges of playing in Europe.”


Albirex also announced a new partnership with Deinze. The three-year agreement, which takes effect today, will see both clubs collaborate and cooperate across two main areas: the exchange of training opportunities and internships for both clubs’ academy players, and comprehensive cooperation aiming towards top team exchanges, including the development of a network of scouting teams in Europe.


Albirex Chairman Daisuke Korenaga and Hiroyuki Ono at a press conference held at Jalan Besar Stadium, 13 December 2022. Image credits: Playmaker SG


“I believe football in Singapore will improve with more Singaporeans playing in Europe,” Albirex Chairman Daisuke Korenaga said. “I feel that this partnership will promote exchanges between Singapore and Europe and provide a concrete career path for the young players who will play football in Singapore in the future.”


Ono added: “We want to create a pathway for more Southeast Asian players to have the opportunity to play in Europe. We are looking forward to seeing Ilhan’s success as well as the development of measures to connect Europe and Asia, including collaboration between the academies.”


Ilhan join his new club after the upcoming ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Mitsubishi Electric Cup 2022 campaign with Singapore.


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