Home United have added fresh ammunition to their strike force by signing one of Singapore's hottest young prospects, Irfan Fandi.
Known for his aerial ability, powerful physique and sound technique as well as being the eldest of local football icon Fandi Ahmad's five children, the 1.88m-tall striker will be the youngest player in the Protectors' squad at 18.
Signed on a one-year deal, Irfan will team up with the likes of former LionsXII players like striker Khairul Nizam, winger Faris Ramli and midfielder Zulfahmi Arifin, as well as Ken Ilso, who played in the second division of the Bundesliga. The Dane was the club's top scorer last season with 11 goals.
"Irfan's athleticism stands out among his peers, and he has shown his ability to play as the targetman. I believe he can bring a good set of qualities to the front line," Home's chief executive Azrulnizam Shah Sohaimi told The Straits Times.
Added coach Philippe Aw: "His aerial ability and dynamism off the ball will add strength to our team."
The teenager has put his dream of playing in Europe and South America on hold for two years, as he is likely to enlist for National Service (NS) later this year.
Irfan, with his brother Ikhsan, 16, had a training stint at Chile's top-tier team Universidad Catolica from late 2013 to early last year.
Following his return to Singapore where he made his SEA Games debut in June, Irfan has chosen to remain in the Republic - for now.
He told ST: "Nothing has changed.
"I just hope to quickly go in (to NS), and quickly come out. NS is a rite of passage every Singaporean man has to go through and I'm taking this positively. I will do my best to ensure that I stay on track in pursuing my dreams of playing professional football overseas."
Azrulnizam added: "He is focused on his desire to forge a professional football career on the international stage, and the club are committed to making that happen.
"If Irfan makes it to an overseas club in the future, we will be more than proud that we have been a vehicle to help him achieve that.
"When NS comes, we will have to sit down with him and other relevant stakeholders to see how best we can tailor the schedule and support him such that his development is kept on track."
This will be the first time Irfan joins the senior ranks in the S-League.
Last year, he featured for the Courts Young Lions, who are essentially the national Under-23 squad, scoring two goals in nine appearances.
The public first caught a glimpse of his talent when he starred for the U-16s at the Lion City Cup in 2013, scoring two of his team's three goals in the tournament against the Under-15s of Arsenal and German club Eintracht Frankfurt.
And while he did not score a goal at the SEA Games last year, he impressed with his link-up play.
Asked what attracted him to Home United, he said: "The brand of football that Home played last season was very exciting. They are the only team in the league who play short passing and they work the ball through various channels, and maintain possession at the same time."
He added: "It (the move) will be a huge difference for me. As the Young Lions are a team for youth development, we took every game as a learning opportunity.
"But now at Home, we have bigger expectations and goals. With this in mind, I feel that I will need to keep improving my game in order to play, which is essential for my development as a player."
Azrulnizam added: "It's a learning step for him, because it's his first opportunity to play with senior players. He will get to learn from them and be exposed to a higher level of play."
This article was first published on January 6, 2016.
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