Singapore and LionsXII goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud will be hoping to fulfil his childhood dream of playing in a top Asian football league when he travels to Japan on Tuesday for a one-week trial with J-League side Matsumoto Yamaga FC.
Having just ended their season in J-League Division 1, the Ptarmigans were relegated and are rebuilding a team strong enough to challenge for promotion in the upcoming year. Coached by former Japanese international midfielder Yasuharu Sorimachi, Yamaga regularly fills their 20,000 capacity stadium in the Nagano Prefecture.
In a move facilitated by the Football Association of Singapore and Epson Singapore, the man who became an instant hero in June when he helped Singapore to a goalless draw against the Samurai Blue in Saitama will be hoping to earn a contract with the popular Japanese club.
A photo posted by @izwanmahbud on
"Since young, I always dreamt of playing in a top Asian league." Izwan told ESPN FC.
"So for this opportunity to come at a time when everything is uncertain, I couldn't have asked for more.
"I want to thank the FAS and Epson for making this possible. And I really hope to do well there not just for myself but hopefully, to create more chances for us Singaporean footballers to move abroad.
Izwan, who captained the LionsXII to the 2015 Malaysia FA Cup, has had an emotional few days, with his club knocked out of the Malaysia Cup by defending champions Pahang on Saturday, which ended the Singaporean outfit's participation in Malaysian domestic football.
Faced with the prospect of finding a new club, the 25-year-old custodian will head to Yamaga, determined to impress the club coaches enough to earn a contract for next season.
He added: "I've played in Japan with the Singapore national team a few times and every time I am there, it is always very impressive with their facilities and the way they do things.
"Never been to Yamaga itself but judging from what I see online, it is a very nice environment and I cannot wait to pull on my gloves and give it my best. Let's see where it takes me!"
Like most Singapore kids who grew up playing football, Izwan is excited at the opportunity of plying his trade in a country that has produced players like Hidetoshi Nakata, Shunsuke Nakamura and Junichi Inamoto.
"Japan has so many stars. When I was younger, I always watched videos of Nakamura playing for Celtic. He is like the David Beckham of Japan and having played as an attacker before, I used to try and take free kicks like Beckham and him." Izwan remarked.
"And then you have the most recognisable Japanese player of all time, Nakata. He is not just a Japanese star but one of the best Asian players of all time. So to be able to get the chance to earn a contract in their country is exciting, scary and a dream come true for me."
It is understood that Yamaga FC will give Izwan one week with the club, before deciding whether to extend the trial or offer him a playing contract for the upcoming season where they will be playing in the J.League Division 2.