SINGAPORE - Singapore and Tampines Rovers goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud, together with his Garena Young Lions counterparts Benjamin Bertrand and Zharfan Rohaizad, delighted 35 young custodians with a special appearance at a Goalkeeper Academy Singapore (GAS) training session at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Saturday morning.
The trio attended the second half of the training session for the young goalkeepers, aged 10 to 16, and later held a question-and-answer session, giving the prospective Singapore goalkeepers some valuable advice.
The GAS, launched on Feb 13 as the Republic's first goalkeeping academy, was set up by former Football Association of Singapore (FAS) consulting goalkeeper coach Guy Martens and FAS goalkeeper coach Frederic de Boever. Both coaches also came up with the coaching manual for the academy.
Said de Boever: "Goalkeeping has been completely revolutionised in the past few years. You can see with top goalkeepers like Manuel Neuer and Thibaut Courtois that there are more and more demands on the position now, so the purpose of the GAS is to prepare the best young Singaporean goalkeepers for this modern style.
"The academy also aims to build a platform where all the goalkeepers and coaches can share and exchange information and knowledge during our weekly sessions. This will help goalkeeper coaches in Singapore grow and develop further as well."
De Boever, who also heads a goalkeeper academy in Belgium, talked about challenging the mindset of Singapore's budding footballers. He said: "The biggest difference between Belgium and Singapore is that over there, everyone wants to be the new Courtois or (Simon) Mignolet. Here, however, they talk about being a striker or the team's No. 9."
"Despite having two fantastic national team goalies in Izwan and Hassan (Sunny), it's not popular for local kids to become a goalkeeper. We're hoping to change that attitude a little bit so that in the end, everyone says goalkeepers are an important part of the team."
The GAS holds weekly sessions every Saturday from 9.45am-11.45am at the Jalan Besar Stadium, or at Yishun Stadium if the former is unavailable. All goalkeepers aged 10-16 are welcome, but they must at least be in their school team and must first be registered.