Football: Izwan warmed by Japanese fans' support in the cold

As of now, he is merely a guest and not one of their own players yet.

But around 60 Matsumoto Yamaga fans and 10 members of the local media braved the 13-deg Celsius, 20kmh winds yesterday afternoon to catch a glimpse of a goalkeeper whom they hope will be their next football hero.

In the unfamiliar cold, the unexpected fan presence at the Karigane Football Centre warmed Singapore custodian Izwan Mahbud's heart and provided further motivation to do his best to convince the J2 League club to offer him a contract.

After he satisfied every autograph and wefie seeker and fulfilled TV and newspaper interviews, he told The New Paper: "The fans were outside watching and it was the first time I had fans watching me train, so that was definitely a highlight and eye-opener for me.

"The city of Matsumoto is a very peaceful, nice and clean place. It is very zen-like and thus different from the busy Tokyo city.

"Even if language is currently a barrier for me, the people here are still very polite, humble and helpful."

After arriving on Tuesday night, the 25-year-old got down and dirty in his first training session with the Ptarmigans.

Under the watchful eye of head coach, former Japan international Yasuharu Sorimachi, and goalkeeper coach Honma Yasutaka, Izwan was put though the paces with three other goalkeepers in the team in the two-hour training session.

Izwan said: "Today's training was very physical. It was very cold, it was hard for me to breathe. I have to adapt as fast as I can to this weather.

"Today was a good day, but it was also the first day of training and I'm still adapting to the climate and I hope to perform better over the next few days.

"The coaches, players and goalkeepers have been talking to me and they are very welcoming. Hopefully, I'll gain something out of this week here at Matsumoto Yamaga.

"Even though I have been here for just a short while, I can see that Matsumoto Yamaga are a good club who take good care of their players.

"They are very professional in every aspect of their preparation for training and have very well-equipped training facilities at the Karigane Football Centre."

Izwan will continue to train with the club today and tomorrow, before a friendly match against the Matsumoto University team at 10am (Japan time) on Saturday.

On Monday, The New Paper had revealed that Matsumoto, who enjoy a capacity 20,000-strong support at their Alwin Stadium on matchdays, are keen to see if Izwan fits in their plans.

Epson Singapore, whose head office in Japan are sponsors of the club, then swiftly moved to work with the Football Association of Singapore to send Izwan over.

The LionsXII goalkeeper had captured the imagination of the J.League, football fans and the media in Japan after he made 18 saves to thwart Japan and help Singapore hold the Samurai Blue to a goalless draw in a World Cup/Asian Cup qualifier in June.

This article was first published on December 3, 2015.
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