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 By Kenneth Tan

Singapore star Shahfiq Ghani exits Geylang, joins Malaysia's UKM FC

Jason Dasey speaks to Stanley Bernard to react to the 2018 AFC Cup draw and it's pairing for Home United and Tampines.

Forward Shahfiq Ghani is the latest Singapore international to move abroad for the 2018 season after signing for newly promoted Malaysia Premier League (MPL) side UKM FC.

He joins compatriot Hafiz Sujad in the same division, with the latter securing a move to Johor Darul Ta'zim II from Tampines Rovers.

Shahfiq did enough to impress coach Sulaiman Husin after trialing with the club since mid-December, while his peer Sahil Suhaimi dropped out of consideration some time ago.

The 25-year-old has previous experience playing in Malaysian competitions, having spent two years with the now-defunct LionsXII between 2013 to 2014.

His five league goals in his debut season helped V Sundramoorthy's side claim the 2013 Malaysia Super League (MSL) title -- the club's one and only league triumph.

Successive medial collateral ligament (MCL) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries halted his progress thereafter. But the former National Football Academy U18 captain bounced back to make Singapore's 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup squad.

Shahfiq, who has the ability to hit wicked free kicks with his left foot, enjoyed a relatively injury-free campaign in 2017 as he scored five goals to help Geylang International attain a first top-four S.League finish in 14 years.

He is UKM's third foreign signing for the 2018 campaign, after Japanese midfielder Ryutaro Karube and South Korean midfielder Nam Se-In.

Their experience is key as UKM face a baptism of fire in their first-ever season in the Malaysian second-tier, with their team made up of mostly university players.

Shahfiq is the ninth current Singapore international to play abroad this term, with the others being Hafiz, Hariss Harun (JDT), Safuwan Baharudin (Pahang FA), Madhu Mohana (Negeri Sembilan), Shahdan Sulaiman (Melaka United), Zulfahmi Arifin (Chonburi), Hassan Sunny (Army United) and Izwan Mahbud (Nongbua Pitchaya).

Meanwhile, national goalkeeper Izwan received much fanfare after arriving at Udon Thani International Airport on Wednesday afternoon to begin a stint with Thai League 2 side Nongbua Pitchaya.

The 27-year-old received worldwide attention in 2015 with his incredible 18-save feat to help Singapore claim a heroic 0-0 draw away to Asian powerhouses Japan in Saitama during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in June 2015.

Izwan faces a battle with Singapore No. 1 Hassan for the starting spot in November's 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup. 

Hassan returned for second stint with Thailand's Army United last month.

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

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