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
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.
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