Izwan feeling "mentally strong" after Japanese sojourn

Izwan Mahbud was due back in Singapore from his training stint with Japanese club Matsumoto Yamaga on Monday and has already declared the time abroad in unfamiliar territory has improved his mental strength...

The Singaporean goalkeeper spent one week with the club, which was relegated from the top tier of Japanese football last month, culminating in a second-half appearance in goal against a local university side.

Matsumoto is in the Nagano Prefecture, where the Winter Olympic Games were held back in 1998, and the city has an average temperature of just eight degrees celsius in December.

Compared to Japanese goalkeepers, he is better in his judgement and shot-stopping

- Matsumoto Yamaga vice-president

So the trip provided some stern challenges to the former LionsXII custodian, including the language barrier and training methods, but he appeared to thoroughly enjoy the experience.

If he is ultimately signed Izwan would be the first Singaporean to compete in Japanese club football, aiding his cause by keeping a clean sheet during his time between the sticks in Matsumoto’s 5-1 victory on Saturday.

“I’ve learned so much in this first week of training,” Izwan said on Epson’s Singapore Facebook page. The Japanese electronics company sponsors Matsumoto Yamaga and organised the trip.

“The style of play is totally different and the weather is totally different to Singapore, so I learned to be mentally strong and adapt to other situations very well.

“I think (in terms of) the game, I kept a clean sheet but there wasn’t much action.

“I still tried to communicate with my defenders. The University was quite technically good and when I had the ball they pressured me well.

“So overall it was a good game for me, I’m happy I kept a clean sheet.”

From the moment Izwan stepped off the plane in Japan, he was the subject of interest from local media and fans.

The 25-year-old gained some notoriety in the country for his starring effort in goal during Singapore’s 0-0 draw in a World Cup qualifier against the Samurai Blue in Saitama back in June.

Izwan has been met with plenty of fan support during his trip

“In terms of the fans, there were a lot of fans coming to training and it just motivated me to work hard and play my best game ever,” he continued.

“To see the fans coming down from everywhere – I think some came from Yokohama and around the country – they were so welcoming.

“It does motivate you to work hard and to play at your best and become a better goalkeeper.”

During the trip, Matsumoto coach Yasuharu Sorimachi was asked about Izwan’s performances in training.

“Izwan has a very positive attitude and as a goalkeeper, he did his best in adjusting and overcoming the language barrier when it comes to communicating on field,” Sorimachi said.

“I noticed that he also has good agility and his level of skills is comparable with the rest of Yamaga FC goalkeepers."

Izwan is currently without a club after the decision to disband LionsXII, with Tampines Rovers and Thai club Chonburi reportedly interested in securing his services.

Matsumoto is expected to make a decision on whether to sign Izwan next month and the club’s vice-president Yoshiyuki Kato told The New Paper said his chances were high.

“As of now, things are looking positive,” Kato said. “Izwan is not the tallest goalkeeper around (179cm), but compared to Japanese goalkeepers, he is better in his judgement and shot-stopping."

Epson say they plan to continue working in conjunction with the Football Association of Singapore and the J-League to provide similar opportunities for other Singaporean footballers.

Photos: Epson Singapore