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
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."
The New Paper League Cup contest
The New Paper are the new title sponsors of the 2015 League Cup.
And we have 10 sets of attractive prizes, each worth more than $100 (above), to kick off the contest.
Every set consists of an S.League jersey, two The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf pre-paid gift cards, one S. League mini-ball and five complimentary TNP League Cup tickets.
Simply email us the answer to the question below at firstname.lastname@example.org. by 6pm, tomorrow.
Remember to include your full name and contact details.
*How many teams are taking part in The New Paper League Cup?
Fixtures (kick-off at 8.30pm)
- Balestier Khalsa v Warriors FC (Toa Payoh)
- Albirex Niigata v Home United (Jurong East)
- Hougang v Brunei DPMM (Hougang)
- Geylang Int'l v Singapore Recreation Club (Jalan Besar)
- Tampines v Balestier (Jurong West)
- Albirex v Sporting (Jurong East)
- Hougang v Geylang (Hougang)
- Brunei v SRC (Jalan Besar)
- Warriors v Tampines (Woodlands)
- Home v Sporting (Yishun)
- Hougang v SRC (Hougang)
- Geylang v Brunei (Jalan Besar)
July 5 Semi-final
July 6 Semi-final
July 10 Final (Jalan Besar)