Izwan sacrifices 25% pay for challenge in Thailand

Lions 'keeper Izwan Mahbud will join Singapore No. 1 Hassan Sunny in playing for a Thai club next season.
Lions 'keeper Izwan Mahbud will join Singapore No. 1 Hassan Sunny in playing for a Thai club next season.

National goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud has pulled out all the stops to sign for a foreign club, agreeing to a pay cut of about 25 per cent to secure a move to Nongbua Pitchaya.

The 27-year-old signed a one-season deal with the Thai League 2 (T2) side yesterday and is understood to have received an undisclosed sign-on fee for leaving Tampines Rovers.

Nongbua are willing to take on the player despite his recent corrective hand surgery, while he is eager to prove his worth.

Set for his first Nongbua training session on Jan 1 before the league's Feb 9 kick-off, Izwan told The Straits Times: "My move to Thailand is not motivated by money. I am determined to push myself. I have to make some sacrifices but I hope this new challenge will reap benefits in the future."

With Singapore No. 1 Hassan Sunny re-signing for Army United, this latest deal means the Lions' top two custodians will both ply their trade in Thailand next year, while Abdil Qaiyyim is also undergoing a trial with T2's Khonkaen.

The other national players outside the S-League are Johor Darul Ta'zim's Hariss Harun, Pahang's Safuwan Baharudin and Negeri Sembilan's Madhu Mohana.

Izwan, who has 42 caps, said: "I have always wanted to play overseas and I am thankful for this opportunity.

"Nongbua have been competitive in the last couple of years and I hope I will be able to make a big difference to the club. I would like to challenge myself and take myself out of my comfort zone.

"There will be some adjustments but I don't think they are major."

Following the 2013 Malaysian Super League and 2015 Malaysian FA Cup triumphs with the LionsXII, he gained global fame after making 18 saves to help Singapore to a 0-0 World Cup qualifying draw against Asian kingpins Japan in June 2015.

However, after moves to J2 League side Matsumoto Yamaga and Thai League 1's Chonburi failed to materialise, Izwan's form dipped when he returned to the S-League for the last two seasons.

Nongbua, who finished eighth out of 18 teams in their debut T2 season this year, could turn out to be the fillip for his career.

Izwan also acknowledged Hassan's role as a trailblazer after the 33-year-old's two successful seasons with Army in 2015 and 2016.

"Hassan's successful stint proves that Singaporean goalkeepers have the ability to match the best in South-east Asia and I am confident I can do just as well," he said.

David Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2017, with the headline 'Izwan sacrifices 25% pay for challenge in Thailand'. Print Edition | Subscribe