Matsumoto Yamaga reveal why they didn't sign Izwan Mahbud

J2 League club did not sign goalkeeper as he was not better than local players

ON TRIAL: Singapore goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud (far right) turning out for Matsumoto Yamaga in a friendly against Matsumoto University last December.

REPORTING FROM MATSUMOTO­

He had a great attitude, but ultimately, uncertainty over his ability and the language barrier prevented national goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud from becoming the first Singaporean to play in the J.League.

For the first time since the 25-year-old's trial with the J2 League side last December, Matsumoto Yamaga explained why the deal did not eventually go through.

Club president Fumiyuki Kanda told The New Paper: "Our coach (Yasuharu Sorimachi) was very interested to have a closer look at Izwan, which was why we brought him over last December.

"After the one-week trial, we admired Izwan's positive attitude, but his technical abilities were below our expectations, especially as we were looking for a goalkeeper to play in the first team.

"There is still a gap between Asean footballers and Japanese footballers, and you can see that the players from South-east Asia who are in the J.League now have limited playing time.

"Perhaps they need more time to settle down and their clubs have their own strategies, but we were looking for first-team players and we expect our imports to be of a higher standard than our local players."

Izwan had captured the imagination of the Japanese after he almost single-handedly denied the Blue Samurai a win in the World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers last June by making 18 saves in a shock 0-0 draw in Saitama.

Seiko Epson Corporation have been the main sponsors of Matsumoto Yamaga since 2009, and Epson Singapore also has a three-year deal with the Football Association of Singapore since Aug 2013 worth around $1 million - with that link facilitating Izwan's trial in Japan.

IMPRESSED FANS

In wintry conditions, Izwan impressed fans who gathered by the hundreds to watch him train.

Goalkeeping coach Honma Yasutaka said then: "Izwan is good in shot-stopping and awareness, but still needs to improve in his footwork and positioning."

However, the Ptarmigans eventually decided to secure 24-year-old Daniel Schmidt on loan from top-tier side Vegalta Sendai.

Izwan later signed for Singapore giants Tampines Rovers, who are currently second in the S.League, behind Albirex Niigata.

Kanda elaborated: "We eventually settled on Schmidt, who is actually half-American and half-Japanese, also because he speaks our language and is able to communicate better with the rest of the team, especially the defence."

Having represented Roasso Kumamoto in the second division for the previous two seasons, the 1.96-metre custodian has ample experience under his belt and proved his worth this season by keeping a J2 League-high nine clean sheets in 18 games as Yamaga sit fifth in the 22-team league, well within sight of an immediate return to the J1 League.

But with ties established with the FAS through Epson, Kanda said the door remains open for Singaporean talent to attend trials with his club.

Said the 38-year-old: "This week, we have six young players from the FAS National Football Academy (NFA Under-15s' Christian Chiang Moroni, Ashley Yong, Nur Adam Abdullah and Elijah Lim and NFA Under-14s' Vasileios Chua and Marc Tan) with us for a training attachment.

"I hope they will eventually make it to the national team because we are happy to play our part in helping Singapore football grow.

"Such partnerships and attachments will open the way for talented Singaporean players to come over for trials in the future. We welcome them here."

*David Lee's trip is courtesy of Epson Singapore, official partner of the Football Association of Singapore and the official office equipment partner of FAS

Struck by the hand of Ruidiaz

Disputed goal that ended Brazil's Copa America hopes also ends Dunga's stint as coach

DOWN AND OUT: Brazil coach Dunga (left) has been sacked, no thanks to the disputed goal by Peru's Raul Ruidiaz (above, centre).
DOWN AND OUT: Brazil coach Dunga (left) has been sacked, no thanks to the disputed goal by Peru's Raul Ruidiaz (above, centre).

Diego Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" goal helped Argentina beat England at the 1986 World Cup.

Thirty years on, the Hand of Ruidiaz struck a telling blow on Brazil's fortunes at the Copa America and their coach Dunga.

After an opening 0-0 draw with Ecuador was followed by a 7-1 win over Haiti, Brazil needed just a draw with Peru on Tuesday morning (Singapore time) to reach the quarter-finals.

Instead, they crashed out of the tournament after a disputed goal handed the Selecao a 1-0 loss.

Peru's Raul Ruidiaz appeared to bundle in a cross with his arm late in the second half.

It was the first time in three decades that Brazil had exited the tournament at the group stage.

And Dunga, 52, paid the price, despite having confidently said after the defeat that he was not afraid of the sack.

He said: "I am only afraid of death".

Dunga, who was in his second spell as Brazil coach, was fired after a meeting at the CBF (Brazilian Football Confederation) headquarters in Rio de Janeiro.

"The Brazilian Football Confederation decided this Tuesday to dissolve the technical commission of the Brazilian national team," the CBF said in a short statement.

"National teams coordinator Gilmar Rinaldi, coach Dunga and their entire team will leave their posts.

"The CBF has began the process of choosing a new technical commission for the Brazilian team."

FAVOURITE

The overwhelming favourite to become Brazil's new coach is Corinthians' 55-year-old manager Tite.

The new man will also be charged with leading the Under-23s at August's Rio Olympics, the only major tournament Brazil have never won.

Tite led Sao Paulo's biggest club to the Brazilian championship in 2011 and 2015 as well as the Copa Libertadores and World Club Cup for the first time in 2012.

Dunga had never coached until he was first hired as Brazil boss in 2006.

He led them to the Copa America in Venezuela in his first major tournament the following year.

He was fired in 2010, immediately after Brazil were eliminated by Holland at the quarter-final stage of that year's World Cup.

After coaching his boyhood club, Internacional, for a year in 2013, Dunga was a surprise choice to replace Luiz Felipe Scolari after the Selecao's humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany at the 2014 World Cup.

DEFENSIVE STYLE

Dunga, who was captain of Brazil's 1994 World Cup-winning side, was given the task of revamping the national set-up, but his defensive style of play and curt demeanour won him few fans.

Led by Barcelona striker Neymar, Brazil performed well in friendlies, but were knocked out of the 2015 Copa America in the quarter-finals by Paraguay and, without several first-team players, they were poor again at this year's tournament in the United States.

One of the main priorities for the new boss will be to ensure Brazil qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

After a poor start, Brazil sit in sixth place in the South American qualifying group.

The top four teams qualify automatically for the World Cup in Russia. - Wire Services.

'It's in the blood'

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Belarussian table tennis star Samsonov works hard ahead of his sixth Olympic Games

Belarusian table tennis veteran is working towards a sixth and maybe even seventh Olympics

RISING THREAT: Former world No. 1 table tennis veteran Vladimir Samsonov (above) reckons the Japanese can threaten China's dominance in the sport.

He has bagged three World Cup crowns and also been European champion on three occasions, and notched up a record 26 wins on the World Tour in a career that now spans nearly 30 years.

And 40-year-old Vladimir Samsonov is not finished, yet.

While most of his peers have long retired from top-level table tennis, the Belarusian is training hard for the 2016 Olympics, which will be held in Rio from Aug 5 to 21.

A veteran of five Olympics, the world No. 9 has war stories to tell from practically every Games, but no medal to show off.

"I reached the quarter-finals in my first Olympics, Atlanta '96, and was 2-0 up against China's Wang Tao, and twice during the match the lights went off," recalled Samsonov, when he met The New Paper last Saturday after training at the OCBC Arena.

The former world No. 1 hit town last Tuesday to train with the Singapore national team in preparation for the Japan Open next week.

"First, the delay was more than 20 minutes and the second time round, about 15 minutes. It was a bit strange, you know and I lost in the end."

After months of preparation leading up to London 2012, he crashed out on the first day of competition in the English capital.

Samsonov was randomly selected for doping control after he beat Australia's William Henzell 4-3 in the third round and exited the men's singles competition later the same day when he lost 4-3 to eventual gold medallist Zhang Jike of China.

MORE THREATS

"It was really fast, how you'd prepare for such a long time and everything was over in less than 10 hours," Samsonov recounted.

"Hopefully, this year it will be longer."

While the main threat will always be the men from China, he warned that the modern game has thrown up quality paddlers from all over the world.

"On one hand, winning an Olympic medal is easier than winning at the world championships because each country can send only two players to the Olympics, while there's no restriction for the world championships," said the paddler, who is nicknamed "Tai Chi Master" by the Chinese for his superb all-round style.

"But players like (Germany's Dimitrij) Ovtcharov and Timo Boll, (Japan's Jun) Mizutani, and the Koreans are also very dangerous, and it is possible that any of them can win a medal.

"You must be lucky with the draw, although in the end you are responsible for the result."

He thinks that a rising Japanese team may well threaten China's seemingly unassailable position at the top in a few years.

"They have a very good young team and have so many good players playing in international competitions now," he said.

Samsonov, described as one of the most gentlemanly players on Tour, may yet try for a seventh Olympics in Tokyo 2020.

He said: "I might stop playing international competitions (after Rio 2016) for a while and then try to come back for the next Olympics.

"There are many options ahead for me."

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