Hassan, Izwan good enough for Europe: de Boever
Goalkeeper coach de Boever says Hassan and Izwan good enough for Europe, confident of bright future
National goalkeepers Hassan Sunny and Izwan Mahbud have enough talent to play for top clubs in Belgium and Holland. Their big challenge, though, is getting noticed.
That's the assessment of Football Association of Singapore (FAS) goalkeeper coach Frederic de Boever, who sat down with The New Paper recently to explain how he plans to groom local goalkeeping talents.
The 35-year-old previously ran his own goalkeeping academy in his native Belgium and assisted Guy Marten, the man who produced current Chelsea and Belgium No. 1 Thibaut Courtois, at RKC Genk.
De Boever started work in Singapore in January, and now coaches the national team's goalkeepers.
"Realistically, I think Hassan and Izwan are able to compete for a spot at a club in Belgium or Holland," he said.
"If you see Hassan's current levels playing in the Thai league with Army United, and if you see how Izwan played against Japan last year, those boys can compete in European teams.
"But having the quality is one thing, the other is your contacts and the people you know.
"There are not many scouts of European clubs who are in the stands to watch S.League games.
"So they must play on the international level. And, if you can deliver in big moments, like in the Suzuki Cup, or qualification matches with big names like Japan, maybe you get noticed."
De Boever admitted while Singapore are blessed with two "exceptional" goalkeepers, there is no standout youngster with the potential of matching them.
But the father of two boys, aged seven and nine, said there is raw talent among young local boys to be hopeful.
"Behind them, there's a gap, yes, and everybody realises that," he said.
"But you never know when a young goalkeeper, who may not be at the level people want him to be, suddenly improves and goes one or two levels up."
In any case, he added, it is his job to solve the problem and why he travelled halfway across the world, despite not knowing where Singapore was on the map.
"I'm here to do three things," he said. "First, to push the current goalkeepers to their highest possible level, that's the immediate thing.
"The medium-term is to reduce the gap between the current goalkeepers and the ones who have to catch up. It's a challenge for us but I love big challenges.
"And the long-term is the Goalkeeper Academy of Singapore (GAS). That must be the legacy."
The GAS is what the towering de Boever, who was a semi-pro goalkeeper in Belgium but retired at 22, is most proud of.
Launched in January, it aims to equip aspiring shot-stoppers with the right tools, using what he calls a "modern methodology".
He wants Singapore's future goalkeepers to be able to read the game, make decisions quickly and prevent goal opportunities before they present themselves.
He insists the lack of height is not an insurmountable disadvantage.
Hassan stands at 1.84m and Izwan at 1.80m, while the world's top goalkeepers like Manuel Neuer (1.93m), David de Gea (1.92m) and Courtois (1.99m) are taller.
He pointed to Australian goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, who is the same height as Hassan but excelled in international matches, earned a move to Club Brugges and continued to shine in Europe.
Ryan was linked with Liverpool before Valencia snapped him up.
De Boever said he and Martens scouted Ryan for Genk before he moved to Brugges, but Genk's then-technical director felt the Aussie was too short.
But Ryan's rise has given de Boever vindication and he is confident Singapore will reap the rewards of the GAS and his methods in "four or five years".
"If we start working on this methodology and make our goalkeepers deal with everything, then they have a chance of going abroad," he said.
"Of course there are variables. But, if the talent is there and mindset is right, I'm very confident we have a very big chance of achieving something with Singapore goalkeepers."
Pre-academy for kid goalkeepers
Seven months after launching the Goalkeeper Academy of Singapore (GAS) for budding shot-stoppers aged between 10 and 16, the Football Association of Singapore is trying to tap even younger talent.
It will launch a pre-academy tomorrow, catering to boys aged seven to 10, and aims to equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills through games and fun sessions.
Sessions for the pre-academy will be held every Saturday from 8am to 9am at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
All goalkeepers aged seven to 10 are invited, but must be Singapore citizens and be registered beforehand via e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On-the-spot registration is not allowed due to planning requirements.
Said national goalkeeper coach Frederic de Boever: "Response to the GAS has been very positive, and we are already seeing many players improving tremendously under this programme.
"We therefore felt it would be even better to start developing them from a younger age, so that they are absorbing the ideas and concepts of proactive goalkeeping and putting them into practice."
- SAZALI ABDUL AZIZ