Football: Chonburi want Izwan

Football: Chonburi want Izwan
Izwan Mahbud saving a shot during the 0-3 loss to Japan. The Singapore goalkeeper was praised by both sides' coaches.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

A fog of uncertainty is hanging over the local football fraternity, with little known about how the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League will look next year, and the future of Singapore's Malaysian Super League representatives LionsXII yet to be addressed.

The announcement by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) that the LionsXII will no longer play in the country's club competitions from 2016 means all the players from the team are available, and Thai Premier League (TPL) side Chonburi FC are eyeing one of the biggest stars, goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud.

The New Paper has learnt that Chonburi have already made enquiries with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) regarding the future of the Singapore international, who has grown in prominence this year after several tremendous performances.

When approached at training yesterday, ahead of the LionsXII's Malaysia Cup quarter-final, second-leg clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight, Izwan declined comment. While the Thai club have already opened talks with the 25-year-old, TNP understands that a formal offer has yet to be made.

Izwan's rival for the Singapore No. 1 jersey, Hassan Sunny, plies his trade in Thailand with Army United and has also enjoyed a stellar season with the team.

He knows about the interest in Izwan.

"I knew about this a while ago, and I've spoken to Izwan the last few weeks, and he was hesitant at first," said Hassan.

"But, with the situation he is in right now, I'm sure he will not think twice about going to Thailand."

FAM's shock announcement on Tuesday left the 27-man LionsXII squad in limbo, but the FAS moved quickly to reassure the players they would either be kept together to play in the S.League, or be freed up to join local or foreign clubs.

They also assured the players that they wouldn't have to take a pay cut in the S.League.

The LionsXII's biggest stars - Safuwan Baharudin and Izwan - have been linked with stints abroad, and the FAS had earlier revealed that it was in discussions with the Japan Football Association on the possibility of sending the goalkeeper to the J-League for trials. But Chonburi's approach is understood to be the first real move from overseas for a LionsXII player.

While the situation surrounding the LionsXII could well encourage Izwan to join his Singapore international teammate Hassan in Thailand, the latter warns that it will not be a walk in the park.

"If he's really going to Chonburi, he will raise the bar higher (than I've set it)," said the 31-year-old, whose club currently sit ninth in the 18-team TPL with less than a month of the season to go.

"Chonburi are a big club and are always among the title contenders, and players have to perform week in, week out."

Some of the big names in the Chonburi squad include goalkeeper Sinthaweechai Hathairattanakool and winger Kroekit Thaweekarn, both Thai internationals, as well as former Warriors FC midfield maestro Therdsak Chaiman.

"Expectations are very high, especially for foreigners, and if you don't perform, they'll just replace you.

"Money is no issue (for Thai clubs)."

While Hassan's performances for Army United have been good enough to earn him a two-year extension, he has been made to work his socks off on the training ground, a situation Izwan will have to contend with, should he decide to go.

"He will need to work harder because there will be three or four goalkeepers at the club," said Hassan.

"(But) I'm sure he'll be just fine over here."

This article was first published on Nov 28, 2015.
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