Football: Singapore goalkeeper Izwan hot in Japan

Football: Singapore goalkeeper Izwan hot in Japan
GRABBING HIS CHANCE: Izwan Mahbud insists he will consider any offer from Japanese clubs.
PHOTO: Berita Harian

A week after the stunning 0-0 result in Saitama, the phrase still raises laughs here, although it is also an affirmation of just what an impression he made in Japan.

They say 68.6 per cent of Japan is protected by rainforest; the rest by Izwan Mahbud.

Pulling off 18 saves to deny stars like Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki, the goalkeeper's outstanding performance for Singapore in their World Cup qualifier away to Japan last week has left a lasting impression on many Blue Samurai fans.

Having seen Izwan's heroics, Yoshiyuki Kato, vice-president of J-League side Matsumoto Yamaga, responding to a question by The New Paper yesterday, said: "We would like to see him in practice, and yes, you can consider this an invitation.

"I don't think Japan took Singapore lightly. Singapore's players were buoyed by the atmosphere at Saitama and showed fantastic spirit.

"Japan's finishing was not what it should be but the Singapore goalkeeper was fantastic, and he made the match what it was.

"He was excellent and dominating, and I think he has enough ability to be playing in the J-League."

Kato was speaking at a press conference for the three promising Singapore juniors (see sidebar) who are undergoing a week-long exchange programme with the J-League Division 1 side, as part of a collaboration between Epson Singapore and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).

Izwan, who was in Paroi, Malaysia, for last night's LionsXII match against ATM in the Malaysian Super League, was naturally delighted. He said: "If there is an offer from Japan, I will definitely consider it."

Almost all the local media and officials TNP spoke to agreed that Izwan should be given a shot in one of Asia's most high-profile and successful leagues.

Nagano Broadcasting Systems journalist Kotaro Hirai said: "We would like him to come because there are very few (good) goalkeepers in the J-League and we think he has the talent to succeed.

"Singapore football will continue to grow, and if he comes, this will boost Japanese football, too, in terms of level of interest from South-east Asia."

Each J-League club can sign up to five imports and field four for a match. But the mid-season transfer window from July 10 to Aug 7 could come too soon for Izwan as he is still contracted with the LionsXII.

However, since 2012, the Japan Pro-Footballers Association have been conducting trials every December.


Wataru Endo, who works in the J-League sales management and marketing division, believes Izwan can make it as a pro in Japan.

But he warned: "Very few Japanese players speak English, so that's one big problem for us as the defence and the goalkeeper have to be in constant communication. The Singapore goalkeeper was incredible against Japan, but one match is not enough to assess a player in detail.

"We do have trials, and we are thinking of doing one only for Asian players and invite players from South-east Asia. That will be a good opportunity for Singapore, too."

Seiko Epson Corporation have been the main sponsors for Matsumoto Yamaga since 2009, and Epson Singapore signed a three-year deal with FAS in Aug 2013 worth around $1 million.

Epson Singapore general manager (regional - marketing support) Alvin Tan said: "As part of our corporate social responsibility, we would like to do our part to develop football in Singapore.

"We would first want to make sure this attachment for the three young boys is beneficial for both FAS and Matsumoto Yamaga. After which, we will review and discuss what our next step will be."


Name: Izwan Mahbud

Born: July 14, 1990

Age: 24

Height: 1.83m

Weight: 77kg

Strengths: Quick reflexes and accurate goal-kicks

Former club: Courts Young Lions

Favourite local legends: Abbas Saad, Fandi Ahmad

Favourite footballers: Iker Casillas, Peter Schmeichel, David de Gea

Favourite club: Manchester United

Three words to describe yourself as a footballer: Hardworking, passionate and alert

Favourite dish: Chicken rice

Favourite singers: Judika, Afgan, Cakra Khan



Despite being a top-tier club in one of Asia's powerhouse football nations, J-League side Matsumoto Yamaga insist they also have much to gain from a youth exchange programme with Singapore, a country ranked 102 spots below world No. 52 Japan.

At the club's press conference yesterday, Yamaga vice-president Yoshiyuki Kato said, of the collaboration made possible by Epson Singapore and the Football Association of Singapore: "I hope that soon, youth players from Yamaga can play in Singapore and other foreign countries.

"We are a very local team, and with our first promotion to the First Division this season, it gives us our first opportunity to go international and gain new exposure.

"We never had youth team players coming up to the first team, so it is good to learn from another culture and other Asian countries. I think it is a good learning opportunity for both Yamaga and Singapore.

"There is no big difference in terms of technique between the players in our academy and those from Singapore. But when you play against different players from different cultures, there is a stimulus to learn and improve."

National Football Academy Under-14 defenders Hamizan Hisham and Nur Adam Abdullah and midfielder Elijah Lim will take part in the Japanese club's youth training programme, stay in the club's dorm and attend Matsumoto Yamaga's league match against Shonan Bellmare on Saturday.

S Rajan, FAS general manager of youth development and junior centres of excellence, says this is a win-win situation.

He said: "Japan has one of the best youth development programmes in Asia. We want to learn not just tactics and technique, but also the professionalism and attitude the young Japanese players bring to training day in, day out.

"It is through the hard work of everyone involved that they managed to progress from non-league football to the top division of the J-League.


"Just like Singapore, Matsumoto Yamaga are celebrating their 50th anniversary and we hope this exchange programme is the start of a meaningful relationship with the club."

Seiko Epson Corporation have been the main sponsors for Matsumoto Yamaga since 2009, and Epson Singapore have also signed a three-year deal with FAS in Aug 2013 worth around $1 million.

Epson Singapore general manager (regional-marketing support) Alvin Tan said: "Matsumoto Yamaga were in J2 when we began communicating with them about a possible collaboration.

"Their subsequent promotion to J1 presented an opportunity because the club were required to have an overseas link.

"While we hope to raise brand awareness, we also share in Yamaga's vision of growing with the local area and we recognise FAS' contribution to their local community, so we thought this exchange is a good fit.

"I hope the boys have a good experience not just in terms of picking up football skills, but also values like sportsmanship, teamwork and discipline." - DAVID LEE

David Lee's trip is courtesy of Epson Singapore, official partner of the Football Association of Singapore and the official office equipment partner of FAS.

This article was first published on June 24, 2015.
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