SINGAPORE — As the post mortem continues on another disappointing outing for the Singapore national football team at the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup, spare a thought for the three Lions whose Cup campaigns were curtailed by untimely injuries - all on the artificial pitch of Jalan Besar Stadium.
First it was forward Ikhsan Fandi and midfielder Adam Swandi who were struck down by knee injuries in the same match - a pre-tournament friendly against the Maldives, just before the AFF Cup began. So even before they could feature in any AFF Cup match, these two stalwarts were out of the competition.
Then came an even more serious setback. Ilhan Fandi, younger brother of Ikhsan, had been thrusted into the starting forward position following Ikhsan's injury, and had been showing glimpses of his wondrous Singapore Premier League season form that landed him the Young Player of the Year honour.
Then, during Singapore's 0-0 draw with Vietnam - three games into the AFF Cup - the 20-year-old leapt to contest for the ball, and crumpled to the ground in agony. He tried to carry on after treatment, but gave up after a few minutes, shaking his head as he walked disconsolately off the pitch.
A few days later came the bombshell: Ilhan has suffered a complete tear of his left anterior cruciate ligament. He is expected to be sidelined for six to nine months while undergoing rehabilitation.
It was a cruel setback, not only because of the length of the injury, but also because he had just secured a move to Belgian Second Division side KMSK Deinze. A promising spell in Europe had beckoned, as he aims to follow in the footsteps of Ikhsan and his illustrious dad, Singapore football great Fandi Ahmad.
However, all these hopes have to be put on hold as Ilhan begins his rehabilitation. Will the Belgian club continue to keep faith in him? Will he emerge unscathed from this serious injury? Will a bright young talent be robbed of his best chance to make a name for himself in Europe?
So much uncertainties for a young footballer to deal with. Let's hope Ilhan can return to full fitness and continue to shine for the Lions.
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