Get ready to salute the general

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The New Paper League Cup contest

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After Saitama, it's back to Jalan Besar for Izwan

He was 
'god-like' against Kagawa, Honda and Co., now Izwan returns to MSL duty

HEROIC SAVE: Singapore's goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud (right) fighting for the ball with Japan's Shinji Okazaki (centre) and Yuya Osako during the 2018 World Cup qualifying soccer match at Saitama Stadium.

His is now a face recognised in Japan's football circles, not as a villain who prevented the famed Blue Samurai from romping to victory in a World Cup qualifier, but a goalkeeper who put in a god-like performances between the Singapore sticks. 

Izwan Mahbud is being hailed a superhero, after leading the Republic's Lions on head-spinning heist that saw them escape from Saitama with a valuable point after a 0-0 on Tuesday. 

In his family home, though, he is the butt of jokes. 

"Superhero? My mother is proud of me, but my little sister sends all the memes (funnily captioned images) that are on the internet, and there's no real conversation about this (performance) at home - they're just laughing at me," he told The New Paper yesterday. 

Izwan was busy all night, making 18 saves in all, many of them outstanding. 

"It was only in the 93rd minute of the game that I realised that we could actually do this, we could actually get a point ," the 24-year-old said. 

"And I have to give credit to the boys, you can't just look at me, the entire team did well.

"From the backroom staff like Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy (assistant coaches to Bernd Stange) who helped us prepare so well, and the boys who defended brilliantly." 

From the stunner in Saitama, Izwan will return to the run of the mill tomorrow, when a LionsXII side - boosted by the addition of four members of Aide Iskandar's ill-fated South-east Asia Games squad, Al-Qaasimy Rahman, Shakir Hamzah, Safirul Sulaiman and Shafiq Ghani - host ATM FA in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) at the Jalan Besar Stadium. 

Izwan says the MSL is bread and butter for him, and there will be no complacency.

"There is no superhero talk. All that is in the past now, I'm back with the club, and all I want to do is bring the same form here," said the goalkeeper, who also turned in a heroic performance when the LionsXII held off Kelantan to win 3-1 in the Malaysian FA Cup final last month.

Even while he focuses his attention on the task at hand, the dream of plying his trade overseas has not diminished. 

"No, I haven't actually got any offers," he said, chuckling. 

"If an opportunity comes up I must consider it, not too many in Singapore get a chance to play overseas." 

Even while they are locked in a huge battle for the Singapore No. 1 jersey, it is in fact Hassan Sunny, who plays in the Thai Premier League for Army United, who has been Izwan's inspiration. 

"I still hope that one day I can fly the Singapore flag overseas like Hassan is doing now - and we must not forget that it's not easy to do well in Thailand - look at their (gold-medal winning) SEA Games team, and you get an idea of just how good their league is," said Izwan.  

It was a greater awe with which Izwan looked at the likes of Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda of AC Milan, standing beside him in the tunnel in Saitama. 

But his level-headed performance in the Singapore goal, hints at greater things to come from the Republic's own Amazing Spiderman, which is bad news for ATM, who are 11th in the 12-team MSL.

The LionsXII are doing slightly better, four points ahead in eighth, but that means little to Izwan.  

He said: "I don't even look at the table, I just play for three points in every game, and the boys are the same."

Now for a serious tennis push

This was the first time Melissa Pine has been at a SEA Games and the Canadian was thrilled 
to be a part of it. Here, the 37-year-old tells Nicole Chia about taking in the magic as a fan, and the need for Singapore to come up with a bold plan for the talent to not go unfulfilled.

TALENTED THAIS: Tamarine Tanasugarn (right) and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn competing in the women's doubles during the 
SEA Games. 

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Hot talented

Some of them won gold while others were out to gain international exposure at the SEA Games. ALEXANDRIA SCHOON features a group of athletes from the region who wowed the fans in and out of competition


  • Swimming

Barely 20, Schooling was the star of the Games, scooping nine gold medals in nine events, setting new Games records in all of them. He is likeable outside of the pool, confident but not arrogant. He is aiming for world domination, which will surely see his fandom reach new heights.


  • Artistic Gymnastics

Malaysia's gymnastics golden girl Farah, 21 (above right), won the floor exercise, clinched a silver in the individual all-around, and a bronze in the vault, uneven bars and balance beam. Her winning disposition in and out of the Bishan Sports Hall was truly a pleasure to behold. She hails from a family of champions; her sister Katrina won the gold in the synchronised swimming duet event at this year's Games. 


  • Waterskiing

Christian (above) dominated the wakeboarding events, clinching gold in the individual wakeboard as well as the women's slalom. She was part of the wakeboard team that won gold, which she said was a sweeter victory because she got to share the victory. Only 22, the future is bright for this champion.

LIANE WONG, Singapore

  • Fencing

Fencing since she was a little kid, Wong scored her first SEA Games gold in the women's team foil event. Last year, she made her Asian Games debut in Incheon, South Korea, finishing 10th. We will definitely see more of the 21-year-old as she continues to take fencing to a higher level in Singapore.


  • Tennis

Lehnert, a Filipina-German, has been competing since 2008. In 2013, she made the decision to play for the Philippines instead of Germany. At the Games, she chalked a silver in the women's doubles with Denise Dy. The 21-year-old is currently ranked 595 in the world in singles, and 952 in doubles.


  • Volleyball

She was the centre of attention at the volleyball arena, with throngs of reporters pushing to interview her. An FHM model in the Philippines, Daquis (above), 27, was also powerful on court with her spikes, although her team eventually fell to powerhouses Indonesia and Vietnam.


  • Equestrian

The 22-year-old (above) wowed the spectators with her smooth leaps at the showjumping final. She finished third and cheerfully congratulated her peers, and good-naturedly took pictures with all her fans.


  • Wushu

This 23-year-old is a world champion, and bagged the gold for the Optional Taijiquan and Taijijian at the Games. She has been practising her martial art for a long time, and her followers will be happy to know she is far from finished.


  • Football

At just 17, Irfan made his debut at this Games. While the Singapore Under-23s were shockingly poor, his stock has stayed intact. Lighting the Games' cauldron with his famous dad proved a huge hit with Singaporeans.

MARK LEONG, Singapore

  • Waterskiing

Mark was spectacular when he swept to gold in the slalom event. Earlier this year, the 17-year-old raised eyebrows when he won the slalom at the Indonesia Open, which featured an international field. This was Mark's first SEA Games, and his star is on the rise.


  • Floorball

Swedish-born, the 17-year-old was one of the top goalscorers for his nation, despite being the youngest on the team. Led by Alexander, the young Thais they swept past their opponents but found the hosts too strong. Silver was success for him and the team, though.


  • Football

A forward, Mac scored 4 goals in seven matches. The 23-year-old started playing football after his family emigrated to the Czech Republic, and was later scouted and selected to play in the AFC Under-22 Championship qualifiers. The talented attacker is already a member of Vietnam's senior national team.


  • High Jump

His personal best is 2.17m, and he jumped 2.08m at the Games. The 23-year-old is working hard to qualify for next year's Rio Olympics and he has a whole swathe of female fans back home praying for him.


  • Badminton

Winning his first international title at just 15, Jonatan clinched gold in the men's team. The 17-year-old is currently ranked world No. 35 in men's singles and is touted for much bigger things.

After a great Games, Tang urges athletes to aim higher

ON YOUR MARKS: 400m runner Zubin Percy Muncherji (near right), SEA Games assistant team manager Morales Menon (third from near right) and marathon gold medallist Soh Rui Yong (far right) trying to follow the dance moves of a performer (in high boots). TNP PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Nine medals were won by Singapore's track and field athletes at the recently concluded SEA Games, and it was neatly split with three golds, three silvers and three bronzes.

Along the way, nine national records were broken, and 16 personal bests were set.

Singapore Athletics (SA) fielded a record 74-strong team for the Games, which was held in Singapore for the first time in 22 years, and the big stars were Shanti Veronica Pereira (women's 200m sprint), Soh Rui Yong (marathon) and Zhang Guirong (shot put).

At the SA's appreciation dinner last night at the Intercontinental Hotel, president Tang Weng Fei stressed the importance of building on this success.

He said: "Like any proper competitor, our athletes must not settle for what they have.

"Look at the world champions across all sports, regardless of their medium, and they have one thing in common.

"After every triumph, they go back to square one, and start from scratch all over again, to get even better.

"We need to study ourselves, and aspire towards the Asian standard, and achieve sustained success continentally."

Already, 18-year-old Shanti, who ended a 42-year-old gold medal drought in Singapore women's sprinting, is being billed as a trailblazer.


Shanti won the 200m in a time of 23.60 seconds, a personal best and new national record.

"I look at Shanti, and I know that she has what it takes to be Singapore's biggest track star," said Tang.

"More and more training, and it will happen.

"But she still needs to improve, because she still has some ground to make up compared to the best in Asia.

"But overall, I'm very confident, with her age and existing talent, that she will be among the best."

Tang also paid tribute to Zhang, who tore her Achilles' tendon during the women's discus throw final, and praised the entire team for their fighting spirit.

"I was at the athletics events every day during the SEA Games, starting from the racewalk on the 6th, and ending with the 4x100-metre relay on the 12th," he said.

"And one thing I can say is that the spirit of competition in our athletes is strong.

"One example is (Zhang) Guirong, who went to China for surgery after her injury, having already won a gold for Singapore two days earlier.

"She sent me a text message (from China) that said, 'I wish the athletes grow faster, better, stronger, and in 2017 (the next SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur), I'll come back and win the gold.

"That's the kind of spirit we want to see in our athletes.

"And that's the same kind of spirit we're seeing more and more lately."

A foreign athletics technical director as early as September

SA chief Tang says 
some candidates for new technical director post already identified

THE LEADER: SA president Tang Weng Fei gamely taking part in a dance segment at last night's appreciation dinner.

Over four days of South-east Asia (SEA) Games track and field action at the National Stadium last week, an average of 7,500 spectators thronged the venue each day.

For a sport that has been struggling to shine over the last three decades, the turnout was encouraging, even if admission was free.

Coupled with a number of inspirational performances from the 74-strong team - a first sprint gold medal for 42 years from 18-year-old Veronica Shanti Pereira, a marathon triumph by 23-year-old Soh Rui Yong and 16 new personal bests, nine of which were also new national marks - there is hope local athletics is finally on the march.

In a bid to continue the sport's upward trajectory, Singapore Athletics (SA) is actively seeking a technical director.

The last time the track and field body had a technical director was in 2010, when C Veeramani filled the post.


At a SEA Games appreciation dinner for staff and athletes at the Intercontinental Hotel last night, SA president Tang Weng Fei told The New Paper an appointment could be expected as early as September.

"Together with the SSI (Singapore Sport Institute), we have started the process of talking to some people," said Tang.

"We've identified some candidates, but I cannot reveal who they are."

The interview panel includes Tang, SA's vice-president (training and selection) C Kunalan, SSI chief Bob Gambardella and SSI's director of coach development Troy Engle.

Tang confirmed all the candidates are foreign, stressing the need for the incoming expert to be highly experienced.

The former national hurdler said: "He needs to have a macro view of track and field.

"He needs to be able to have a sustainable plan for the future, and have a clear idea of how we can give exposure to our athletes with potential, like Shanti and Zubin (Percy Muncherji, 18-year-old 400m runner).

"The thing is, most of these very good technical directors are currently either planning towards the World Championship (in August) or the Olympics (July 2016).

"So, realistically we will probably make the appointment in the fourth quarter of this year, and definitely not before August."


Tang is hopeful SA will find the right man, citing the example of Luis Cunha, who was appointed national sprints and relays head coach last December.

"Luis has done very well," he said, of the Portuguese.

"The performance of the 4x100m men's and women's relay teams (both set new national records) was amazing. I'm sure you saw their baton passing at the SEA Games.

"The women's 4x400m relay team as well, although (the event) is more about ground speed and less about technique.

"Luis is a soft-spoken, unassuming person, unlike some other foreign coaches who talk a lot, on Facebook and so on.

"But just look at the relay teams, and the individual athletes like Dipna (Lim-Prasad, 400m hurdles silver medallist) and Calvin (Kang, 100m sprinter who was 0.02sec off silver)... He lets his athletes' performances do the talking."

"He needs to be able to have a sustainable plan for the future, and have a clear idea of how we can give exposure to our athletes with potential, like Shanti and Zubin (Percy Muncherji, 18-year-old 400m runner)."

- Singapore Athletics chief Tang Weng Fei on the tasks for the new technical director

They don't want to go despite eruptions from volcano

Many villagers living near Indonesia's Mount Sinabung have been forced to evacuate

OMINOUS: Indonesia's Mount Sinabung volcano spewing ash (above).
OMINOUS: Indonesia's Mount Sinabung volcano spewing ash (above).
OMINOUS: Inhabitants of nearby Karo villagers being evacuated as authorities fear a major eruption (above).
OMINOUS: (above) Molten lava from Mount Sinabung.
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Look who's watching you on the plane

HIGH TECH: A visitor tries out French manufacturer Thales' prototype for the next generation of business class seat, which includes iris-tracking to tell when passengers are looking away.
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First female fighter pilot at NDP

She will be taking part in '50' formation flypast

VERTICAL CLIMB: Following the “Criss Cross” manoeuvre, two Black Knights will execute a near-vertical climb

F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot Lee Mei Yi is slated to make history this year.

She will be the first woman fighter pilot to be flying in the National Day Parade (NDP).

Major (Maj) Lee, who joined the Republic of Singapore Air Force 11 years ago, will be flying the F-16 as part of the "50" formation flypast.

The 30-year-old said that taking part in the parade this year is the culmination of her career, which has seen her go on stints to Australia and India.

"It is a great privilege to be part of the parade," she said.

"This is definitely the biggest honour as it is Singapore's Golden Jubilee."

Maj Lee said the challenges of flying in the formation come about from the close proximity of the aircraft to one another. That said, the training the pilots have undergone would come in handy for any challenge that may arise.


The "50" formation flypast will be part of the largest and most extensive air segment in the parade's history.

As part of the nation's 50th birthday, 50 aircraft of various types will be taking part, said the chairman of the Air Participation Committee, Colonel Francis Ngooi.

Apart from the traditional State Flag flypast, the NDP aerial display will also include a "Five Stars" Tribute flypast as well as a four-minute aerial flypast segment comprising various aircraft.

The "Five Stars" Tribute aerial flypast will be executed by the RSAF Black Knights to remember the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Lieutenant-Colonel Chan Ching Hao, flight lead of the "50" formation, said the team of pilots has trained rigorously so that they can put together an exciting performance for the audience at the Padang.

The 33-year-old said: "We started preparations a year ago to build our team chemistry. We carry out one to two flights a week and have clocked over hundreds of hours of flying.

"We are all looking forward to having a good show at the NDP this year."



"We started preparations a year ago to build our team chemistry. We carry out one to two flights a week and have clocked over hundreds of hours of flying."

- Lieutenant-Colonel Chan Ching Hao, flight lead of the '50' formation




This unprecedented “50” formation that comprises 20 F-16s is part of RSAF’s Saluteto- Nation segment.

AERIAL BOMB-BURST: Six Black Knights perform an aerial bomb-burst, where the planes execute a fanning-out movement.

‘FIVE STARS’ TRIBUTE AERIAL FLYPAST: This flypast is a tribute to remember the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and to signify Singapore’s ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality. The RSAF Black Knights will execute this formation during the tribute segment in the Prologue of National Day Parade 2015.

‘CRISS CROSS’: This challenging and exciting manoeuvre will be performed by four Black Knights. The jets will fly with smoke trails over the Padang and Marina Bay.

COMBAT TURN: A solo F-15SG will execute this manoeuvre over the Padang to showcase its precision and agility. This manoeuvre will end with a near-vertical climb

 FLAT BURST: The finale of the air show will see three F-15SGs executing this move to conclude the aerial display.