S'pore goalkeeper Izwan is a stag

SEALED: Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra (inset, left) says the signing of Izwan Mahbud (inset, right and top) gives the Stags a solid spine.
PHOTO: The New Paper

They were a fit and disciplined unit that were nigh impossible to break down as they stormed to the 2013 Malaysian Super League (MSL) title under the guidance of V Sundramoorthy.

Now, it appears that the LionsXII's Class of 2013 are being reassembled for a shot at winning trophies in the local game.

Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League giants Tampines Rovers confirmed the signing of goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud yesterday, in what appears to be the final piece in coach Sundram's jigsaw.

There are now nine LionsXII players, along with Fazrul Nawaz, who turned out for the Singapore side in 2013, on Tampines' payroll.

"Frankly, I really wanted Izwan to be able to play abroad, push his own boundaries, and fly the flag for Singapore footballers," said Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra, who revealed that the club contacted Izwan after the LionsXII squad broke up due to the Football Association of Malaysia's decision not to extend the Memorandum of Understanding that saw the Singapore side enter Malaysian domestic competitions in 2012.

"I'm delighted to have him on board, he now gives us a very good spine (in the team), and I'm sure it will have a positive impact on us."

Izwan had gone for trials with Japanese side Matsumoto Yamaga while Thai club Chonburi had also enquired on his availability, but neither option panned out.

"We allowed him to go for trials, and pursue options to join foreign clubs, plus the back-up possibility that Tampines are the team he will play for if it didn't work out," said the lawyer.

"I still feel that we should support our national footballers to push the envelope, and now (having Izwan) it's like I'm having my cake and eating it too.

"Izwan has worked hard to get where he is today, and his is a good old-fashioned story of how hard work pays off.

"I'm glad we've got a good, honest guy like him on board, and I must say I'm very buoyant about the new season."

The 25-year-old joined his squad for training yesterday and, while he still hopes to play overseas one day, he is excited about the new challenge facing him in the S.League.

"I'm very grateful for the opportunity the club gave me and I hope to repay them on the pitch," Izwan told The New Paper.

"I'm glad that I've joined the club, and I'm excited about getting started."

Tampines start their season on Jan 27, when they face Mohun Bagan away in an Asian Football Confederation Champions League qualifier.

Sundram and his charges have been tasked to take Tampines back to the summit of local football but Krishna is adamant that he will not put pressure on the team, despite assembling a squad with some of the most talented players in the country.

"We want to win trophies, but silverware is not the only barometer for measuring success. I'm not putting pressure on the team to win - and I've told Sundram as much - the style of football is important," said Krishna.

"We've got an opportunity to play in AFC competitions and show what Singapore football is about. I hope the team playing with this kind of freedom will make us good to watch."

With Izwan choosing Tampines and midfielder Isa Halim joining Geylang International, all 28 players in Fandi Ahmad's extended LionsXII squad have found new clubs.

shamiro@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 29, 2015.
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