Interviews

La'Vere Corbin Ong, one-on-one: The invitation to Malaysia which was almost filtered as junk mail and that killer long throw

La’Vere Corbin-Ong has got Malaysia Super League (MSL) fans raving with his stellar performances and stunning long throws since joining giants Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in 2018. The left-back shares with FourFourTwo his journey to Malaysia, being captivated by the Southern Tigers and the possibility of one day turning out for the Harimau Malaya...

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London-born but raised in Canada to parents from Barbados and Malaysia, Corbin-Ong is quite the globetrotter - and the route his career has taken proves it, with the full-back playing in Canada, Germany and Holland – before opting for a Malaysian passport to sign for the Southern Tigers.

Since putting pen to paper for the champions, Corbin-Ong's lung-bursting runs from left-back coupled with an impressive arsenal of long-throws have got many talking about the 26-year-old, who made his international debut for Canada in March 2017.

So impressive has been Corbin-Ong that he has kept Fazly Mazlan, who for the last couple of years has been touted as the nation’s best left-back, on the JDT bench

So impressive has been Corbin-Ong that he has kept Fazly Mazlan, who was for the last couple of years touted as the nation’s best left-back, on the JDT bench.

But speaking to FourFourTwo, Corbin-Ong revealed that he almost missed the move to JDT altogether.

“It’s a funny thing. I was bored one day and decided to go through my junk email. Some important ones go there sometimes and I saw an email from someone who had an affiliation with JDT,” said Corbin-Ong.

“If I remember correctly it was somewhere in the middle of September last year. It was just an opening email asking how I would view a move to Malaysia. It explained more about the club, the boss (owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim) and what they wanted to accomplish.”

Corbin-Ong in action for Go Ahead Eagles. Photo: gaewatcher.nl

Signing for JDT has't been the first time Corbin-Ong took a leap of faith.

Having played for Capilano University in Canada and later Major League Soccer side Vancouver Whitecaps, Corbin-Ong ventured to Europe on holiday before a friend suggested that he attend trials while there.

Corbin-Ong decided the move to Malaysia also offered him an opportunity to learn more about the country his mother was from.

Corbin-Ong joined German fifth-division club FC Pommern Greif in 2012 and moved to fourth division side Berliner AK 07 two years later. The defender then moved to FSV Frankfurt, who were just demoted to the third-tier, ahead of the 2016-17 season. He later left Germany for Netherlands in July 2017 to sign with second division side Go Ahead Eagles.

Having been convinced of the JDT’s stature, the move to Malaysia also offered Corbin-Ong an opportunity to learn more about the country his mother was from.

“Home for me is Vancouver as that is where I was raised and have many family and friends. Now that I’m in Malaysia, I’m learning more about my mother’s side. As much as I have my dad’s Barbadian laidback approach, I have some qualities from my mom too,” he said.

“I’m picking up some local words too. It’s a completely different language with different grammar rules but everyone has been telling me that it is easy to pick up.

Fans have taken to Corbin-Ong quickly. Photo: JDT

“I like to explore on my day off too. I have visited Kuala Lumpur where I have some family and some of mom’s friends. It’s great seeing some cousins I have not met in 10-12 years.”

According to the well-travelled Corbin-Ong, the JDT project is the best he has seen among the clubs he has been a part of.

What the Prince (Tunku Ismail) has done in unbelievable … the quality and facilities he has brought. It’s the place to be in Malaysia

- La'Vere Corbin-Ong

JDT have been the most successful club in Malaysia since the Tunku Ismail revolution started to reap fruits in the 2014 season. They have won a record four straight MSL titles, the 2017 Malaysia Cup, 2016 FA Cup and the coveted 2015 AFC Cup – a first in the region.

The Malaysian giants are gunning for a fifth MSL title in 2018 and to in the future, become the first Malaysian side to play in the AFC Champions League. But this season, they will first need to replicate their AFC Cup success three years ago.

“The club has been phenomenal. I’ve never been at a club with such facilities to be honest. What the Prince (Tunku Ismail) has done in unbelievable … the quality and facilities he has brought. It’s the place to be in Malaysia,” said Corbin-Ong.

[NEXT: Learning from the best at JDT and playing for a new country?]