Virus holds up Ikhsan's potential move to top-tier club in Norway
Lions forward impresses two-time Norwegian champions, but transfer from Raufoss in limbo due to league's coronavirus-induced delay
A year after joining Norwegian second-tier club Raufoss IL, Singapore international Ikhsan Fandi has done enough to earn a trial with top-tier side IK Start.
But a potential deal has been put on ice, as the Norwegian leagues have been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Eliteserien, the Nordic nation's top-flight league, was scheduled to kick off on April 4, but has been delayed. The Norwegian Football Federation has also imposed a training ban on clubs until the end of the month.
With those restrictions and the transfer window closing on April 1, Start - who have just been promoted to the top tier - were hesitant to take on the 20-year-old striker just yet.
Start coach Johannes Hardarson told The New Paper in a phone interview: "We are impressed with what we have seen from Ikhsan.
"He fits the profile of the striker we are looking for and the chances are pretty good that we sign him.
"But we have this challenge with the coronavirus... So, we don't know what's going to happen... We are interested, but we have some things to sort out first (owing to the pandemic).
"There is also the transfer deadline to factor in. That said, there might be some changes to that as well because of the situation."
Ikhsan, who bagged six goals in 28 appearances for Raufoss last season, left an impression on ex-Iceland international Hardarson despite not scoring against Start.
They invited him for a three-day trial on March 1 and after that had a meeting with the 20-year-old to share their expectations of him as well as their culture and philosophy.
The Kristiansand-based club also invited Ikhsan, who has one year left on his Raufoss contract, to join them for a training camp from March 5 to 13 in Marbella, Spain, where they were scheduled to play three friendlies.
But, due to the pandemic, Start played only one match - a 2-0 win over fellow Norwegian side Grorud IL - and Ikhsan scored during his 75-minute outing against the newly promoted second-tier outfit.
"Ikhsan impressed us last season (when we played Raufoss away) and, when we had the chance to get him on trial, we brought him over," Hardarson, 44, added.
"We liked what we saw, so we brought him along to Marbella. He also did well there, made a really good impression...
"Ikhsan has the qualities we are looking for. He is fast, physical and decent on the ball... he is a good match for us."
On the potential move, Ikhsan said: "Should it happen, it is going to be really important for me. It is going to be a step up to the top division.
"It's going to be a good challenge for me and I'm excited for the opportunity."
Two-time Norwegian champions Start are a more illustrious club than Raufoss, with their 14,563-capacity Sor Arena the fifth-biggest in the 16-team Eliteserien.
But even if the move does not materialise, Ikhsan remains unfazed despite the uncertainties that lie ahead of him.
Raufoss coach Christian Johnsen has not been pleased with the travelling he has had to do for national team games.
Also, the club have signed Lee Rochester Sorensen, a striker from Danish second-tier club FC Roskilde, which could further jeopardise Ikhsan's place in the squad.
"I've told the coach that I have no problems playing for Raufoss," said Ikhsan.
"The one year I've spent here played a crucial part in improving and developing me...
"However, the coach is not too pleased with me having to travel a lot for international duty... and the club have signed a new striker... If I'm not in his plans for the upcoming season, then obviously I have to move."
Johnsen could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, Ikhsan has to play a waiting game, compounded by a 14-day home quarantine issued by the Norwegian government for anyone returning from abroad from Feb 27.
He started his home quarantine last Friday and has since been working out, playing video games, watching movies and also doing some personal online work to stave off the boredom.
However, the biggest challenge has been having an adequate supply of daily necessities.
"I'm running out of food because I eat too much," Ikhsan said with a chuckle.
"There are some sections of the supermarkets that are empty, but it still isn't as bad as other countries...
"Oh, yeah, I'm running out of toilet paper as well!"