Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Ex Young Lion Gets JLeague Chance?

SINGAPORE — If he goes on to eventually secure a contract with J-League club Matsumoto Yamaga, Izwan Mahbud would become the first Singaporean footballer to feature in top-flight Japanese football.

But the Singapore national goalkeeper knows if he succeeds, he could also be paving the way for more of the Republic’s best players to ply their trade in Asia’s top leagues in what would be a huge boost for the sport’s flagging fortunes here.

Yesterday, it was reported Matsumoto Yamaga vice-president Yoshiyuki Kato had invited the 24-year-old for a trial. Izwan knows a lot more is at stake than him trying to secure a deal.

“If I do go for trials, I’m sure many people in Singapore will be hoping to see me succeed because they want to see Singaporean footballers playing in top leagues overseas,” Izwan told TODAY. “We were proud to see (Singapore national team-mate) Safuwan (Baharudin) playing for Melbourne City in the (Australian) A-League, and his stint inspired us to want to be like him and make it overseas.”

Izwan pulled off 18 saves to secure Singapore a shock 0-0 draw against four-time Asian champions Japan — widely regarded as Asia’s best footballing nation for the past two decades — in a 2018 World Cup qualifier in Saitama last Tuesday. His performance also piqued interest in Japan about him and Singapore football.

But while he denied the likes of AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda and Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa, Izwan, who plays his club football for Singapore-based Malaysian Super League side LionsXII, admits Yamaga’s offer caught him off guard. “I did a short online search after the (LionsXII’s) match (against ATM on Tuesday) and found out more about the club. Their climb from the lower tiers into the J-League over the past few years is impressive,” said Izwan.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS), which has been working to set up playing stints and trials for top Singapore players in the J-League, has not heard officially from Matsumoto Yamaga regarding the trials for Izwan. But the FAS wants further discussions with the club and the association’s relevant stakeholders, including sponsor Epson, on it. (No, no, please do not get involved. Why the hell does the FA need to talk to the sponsor? Perhaps they wanna look at KPIs and leverage on the hub to beccome a bespoke practioner of bullshit).

Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy — they played for Dutch side FC Groningen (1983 to 1985) and Swiss club FC Basel (1987 to 1988), respectively — remain arguably Singapore’s most successful footballing exports.

Others who have tried to secure deals outside of South-east Asia include former Singapore forwards Indra Sahdan, who had trials with United States Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake in 2007, and Noh Alam Shah with Latvia’s Skonto Riga and England’s Notts County in 2005. Earlier this year, Safuwan secured a three-month deal with Melbourne City, while goalkeeper Hassan Sunny is now playing for Thailand’s Army FC.

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