More than 5,000km away from home and stuck in the biting 14 deg C cold of Matsumoto, Izwan Mahbud is braving the odds in his bid to become the first Singapore footballer to sign for a J-League team.
Yesterday, the 25-year-old goalkeeper took part in his first training session with second-tier side Matsumoto Yamaga - and it seems he has already left a good impression on coach Yasuharu Sorimachi.
"Izwan has a very positive attitude and adapted very well in the whole training," said the 51-year-old, a former Japan international midfielder.
"As a goalkeeper has a specific role and needs to communicate with the team, Izwan did his best to adjust even though he has a language barrier.
"I noticed that he also has good agility and his level of skills is comparable with the rest of Yamaga FC goalkeepers."
Izwan, who was approached by the Japanese media on his arrival at Narita Airport on Tuesday, will take part in two more training sessions before getting some match action in a friendly against the Matsumoto University team on Saturday.
He said: "It was very cold, and quite hard for me to breathe. But I have to adapt as fast as possible to this weather.
"The players and coaches are very welcoming and hopefully I will gain something from this experience."
Izwan made headlines in June when he pulled off 18 saves to help Singapore hold Japan to a 0-0 draw in their 2018 World Cup qualifying clash in Saitama.
That same month, Yamaga vice- president Yoshuyuki Kato said that the goalkeeper can make the grade in the J-League, adding that he would like to see him in training.
Last month, Izwan put on another solid performance despite a 3-0 defeat by Japan in the reverse tie at the National Stadium. Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic even congratulated him personally after the match.
Little wonder a small crowd gathered at Yamaga's training ground to watch Singapore's No. 1 in action yesterday. Said Izwan: "It's the first time where I see fans watching while we train, and it's an eye-opener for me."
This article was first published on December 3, 2015.
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