Football: Izwan keeps clean sheet for Yamaga

Izwan Mahbud at Matsumoto Yamaga's training session, interacting with fans and signing autographs. Izwan playing for Matsumoto Yamaga in a friendly match against Matsumoto University.
Izwan Mahbud at Matsumoto Yamaga's training session, interacting with fans and signing autographs.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN PHOTO: EPSON SINGAPORE
Izwan Mahbud at Matsumoto Yamaga's training session, interacting with fans and signing autographs. Izwan playing for Matsumoto Yamaga in a friendly match against Matsumoto University.
Izwan playing for Matsumoto Yamaga in a friendly match against Matsumoto University.PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN PHOTO: EPSON SINGAPORE

Japan club to decide if they want to sign him over next few days but signs look promising

Despite the stinging winds and a humdrum diet of chicken and noodles, the past five days have been an enriching experience for Singapore goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud at Japanese club Matsumoto Yamaga.

On the pitch, it has been nothing short of an education, said the footballer, who is bidding to be the first Singaporean to play professional football in Japan.

He told The Sunday Times yesterday: "The level of football was of course higher, and I've learnt so much from this experience.

"The club was very welcoming and they were all very friendly. The coaches also gave me pointers, such as my positioning and footwork."

The stint was facilitated by Epson Singapore and the Football Association of Singapore. Epson are also the shirt sponsors of Yamaga.

Izwan, 25, trained thrice with second-tier side Yamaga, before playing in a friendly match against Matsumoto University yesterday.

Donning the No. 50 jersey, the custodian played the second half and kept a clean sheet. Yamaga ran out 5-1 winners, with the goal conceded in the first half.

Izwan also experimented with some Japanese words. He said: "I'm glad I kept a clean sheet. I also tried to use a few words, like 'left' and 'right' in Japanese. The communication with the back-line was good and they responded to me."

The club will use the next few days to decide if they want to sign the goalkeeper.

But the signs are promising. Izwan was praised by coach Yasuharu Sorimachi after his first training session.

On Wednesday, the ex-Japan international said: "He has good agility and his level of skills is comparable with Yamaga FC goalkeepers."

One thing is for sure, Izwan had definitely won the fans over. Crowds gathered during training sessions and many queued up in the cold to get his autograph.

A Yokohama Marinos fan said: "I have a great impression of him. He is quick with good reflexes. He is young and can play in Japan easily."

Izwan saw his stock skyrocket after conjuring an 18-save show in Singapore's 0-0 draw against Japan in a World Cup qualifier in Saitama in June.

He also put in a good shift in the Lions' 3-0 defeat to the Samurai Blue last month, which earned him compliments from Japan coach Vahid Halilhodzic, and saw him praised on Japanese network Fuji Television by stars Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa.

Said Izwan: "Seeing the fans come from everywhere, and how welcoming they are, just motivates me to work harder and be a better goalkeeper."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 06, 2015, with the headline 'IZWAN KEEPS CLEAN SHEET FOR YAMAGA'. Print Edition | Subscribe