More local footballers may head to Japan for trials

More local footballers may head to Japan for trials
Goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud.

On Tuesday, J-League football club Matsumoto Yamaga's vice-president Yoshiyuki Kato said he would like to offer Singapore goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, who starred in the Lions' 0-0 draw against Japan in the World Cup qualifiers last week, a trial.

And the LionsXII custodian might not be the only Singaporean on the radar of the Japanese clubs.

Yesterday, at Yamaga's training ground, J-League international relations official Kei Koyama revealed that talks are under way with the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to send some of the Republic's top players to Japan for trials, which are typically held in December.

He said the players who have caught his eye include national players Safuwan Baharudin and Hariss Harun.

The Japan Football Association (JFA) and the FAS have a cordial relationship and renewed their memorandum of understanding in February.

The FAS said in a statement: "After Singapore's recent World Cup qualifier against Japan, which generated a lot of interest from J-League clubs, FAS president Zainudin Nordin and general secretary Winston Lee have been in discussions with them (JFA) again with regards to the possibility of trials or playing stints for goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud and another player.

"We hope to be able to give some good news to our players and fans soon."

The proposal is part of the J-League's "The Asia Project".

To that end, it opened up a fifth spot for foreign players from Asia but this player must come from one of its nine partner countries - Iran, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Koyama, 31, is in charge of players in South-east Asia, and helped facilitate Indonesian Irfan Bachdim's move to J-League side Ventforet Kofu last year but the forward failed to make a league appearance.

He is now with Consadole Sapporo in the second tier and has played one match so far.

Koyama also revealed that advanced talks are taking place between Thailand's Chanathip Songkrasin - who impressed at last year's ASEAN Football Championship and the recent SEA Games in Singapore when he was the Thais' main player in their gold-medal winning campaign - and a few unnamed J-League clubs.

Vietnamese forward Nguyen Cong Phuong is another player who could be headed for Japan.

In fact, Koyama was in Singapore at the SEA Games to watch them in action and scout for players in the region.

But he stressed the final decision lies with the clubs.

This article was first published on June 27, 2015.
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