Who says Singapore has no footballing talents?
Earlier this year (16 June), Izwan performed impressively against the Japanese national team in a 2018 World Cup Qualifier match, pulling a total of 18 saves to earn Singapore a point. Izwan’s performance drew the attention of the Japanese footballing world and now, 6 months later, Izwan is showcasing his talent in Japan.
The 25 year old is currently on a training trial at Matsumoto Yamaga F.C, a second tier Japanese football club after doing his best impression of Superman. If all goes well, Izwan will be he first Singaporean to play professional football in Japan.
While we hope that all will go well for Izwan, MustShareNews presents 12 other Singaporean footballers who had the opportunity to showcase their footballing talents outside of Southeast Asia.
1. Indra Sahdan Daud
Aside from being the highest paid footballer in Singapore at one point, Indra Sahdan Daud also holds the bragging right of being the first and possibly only local born footballer to have scored against Manchester United in a friendly match back in 2001,
where Manchester United demolished Singapore 8-1.
Indra’s exploits could have caught the attention of Manchester United’s local rival, Chelsea.
On December 2003, Indra was given the chance to showcase his talent outside of Southeast Asia when he was sent for a 2-week training stint with Chelsea’s reserve team as part of a deal with the club sponsor. However, this was as far as Indra’s English adventure would go.
In 2008, Indra started his American footballing adventure with a trial with American Major League Soccer (MLS) club Real Salt Lake, where the prolific striker scored two goals in four starts and earned himself a spot in Real Salt Lake’s pre season squad in Argentina.
Unfortunately, Indra suffered a knee injury in Argentina and was not offered a contract.
2. V. Sundramoorthy
The Former LionsXII coach, V. Sundramoorthy was known as a fantastic dribbler and a prolific scorer of acrobatic goals in his younger days. Sundramoorthy is also the second locally born footballer to have professionally plied his trade in Europe after Fandi Ahmad.
Sundramoorthy played for FC Basel on the professional level in 1988 for a season. However, unlike Fandi Ahmad, Sundramoorthy’ stint in Europe wasn’t quite as successful.
In an interview with FourFourTwo, Sundramoorthy recounted his stint in FC Basel with regret, pointing out that he should have stayed in Europe longer. In the interview, the Dazzler also revealed that he was invited by the head coach of Everton FC for a coaching stint, but hasn’t yet found the time to attend.
3. Fandi Ahmad
The current LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad not only showcased his footballing skills outside of Southeast Asia, but was also the first local born player to do so on professional level.
In 1983, Fandi joined Netherlands side, FC Groningen on a two-year contract. The finest moment of Singapore’s football son’s career in FC Groningen came as he scored against top Italian side Inter Milan, in a 2-0 victory.
In his first season at FC Groningen, Fandi was voted the most popular and most skilful player in a season which he smashed 10 goals in 29 appearances to push the club to fifth place in the league.
However, all good things come to an end. Fandi’s second season in the club was marked by injuries and a dispute with the coach. Fandi’s two-year contract was not renewed then.
4. Irfan Fandi
Like the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Irfan Fandi followed his father footsteps to make a career out of football. Despite still not allowed to legally vote, Irfan already stands 1.88m tall, and already had three overseas football stint at Hercules FC, AC Barnechea, and Universidad Catolica.
Irfan not only showcased his talent outside of the region but is also globally recognised, just last year, Irfan was named as one of The Guardian’s 40 best young talents in world football.
The 18 year-old could very well be Singapore’s greatest footballer in the making.
But hey, you know, no pressure.
5. Mahathir Azeman
While most of his compatriots went to Europe to train, Mahathir Azeman went to Brazil instead.
At the age of 17, Mahathir was talent spotted by a Brazilian coach and former S-League player Fabio Da Silva — who with the support of Siglap Secondary School — sent Mahathir to Brazil to train.
After impressing in his training stint in Brazil, Mahathir was offered a contract by Brazilian club Boavista F.C.
Today, Mahathir is back in Singapore to serve his National Service and play on the local level before he will head back to Brazil to play for Boavista F.C.
However, it was reported earlier this year (17 Jan) that Mahathir suffered injuries to his right knee’s anterior cruciate ligaments while training with S.League side Balestier Khalsa. The injury saw the local talent missing out on the ASEAN Games this year.
Now, Mahathir is focused on recovering from his injuries and getting back on the pitch.
6. Adam Swandi
Aside from Irfan, Adam Swandi is also touted as the future Fandi Ahmad of Singapore, given they both play as a forward.
At the tender age of 19, Adam Swandi has already trained with top level European football clubs like Chelsea F.C., Newcastle United F.C., and Atletico Madrid.
At the end of the training stints, Adam received offers from Spain and Holland, but the youngster chose to sign for FC Metz, a French side.
If he ain’t talented, nobody is.
7. Lionel Lewis
Before Izwan Mahbud, there was Lionel Lewis.
Lionel was the first-team goalkeeper for the Singapore national team from 2002 – 2011, where he picked up two ASEAN Championship titles.
In 2007, Lionel was invited by Manchester City F.C. to train with the first team with an option to sign. Sadly, the club decided not to engage the service of Singapore’s custodian.
Today, Lionel Lewis is retired from the sport.
8. Safuwan Baharudin
Safuwan Baharudin currently plays for the LionsXII. As a versatile footballer, Safuwan is able to play as a defender, midfielder or as a forward, and is currently considered as one of most talented footballers in the Singapore footballing scene today.
Earlier this year (29 Jan), Safuwan signed a 3-month loan contract with Melbourne City FC after impressing at a Manchester City FC training camp.
Safuwan’ stint at Melbourne City ended with the club deciding not to sign the versatile player on a permanent transfer. The 24-year-old scored 2 goals from 6 appearances; pretty decent for a player who is often utilized as a defender.
The 24-year-old could very well be plying his trade overseas soon, especially since since LionsXII were ejected from the Malaysian Super League.
Fun Fact: Safuwan is the first Singaporean footballer to be featured in FIFA 15.
9. Ahmad Hakimputra
Ahmad Hakimp- who?
You probably never have heard of Ahmad Hakimputra, since he did not play on any professional level in Singapore. Nonetheless, Putra was contracted with Hungarian side Kaposvari Rakoczi F.C.
The football journey for Putra has been vastly different from the above mentioned footballers.
The 1.66m winger started his European journey at the Genova International School of Soccer (GISS), where he performed well to secure a trial at Kaposvari Rakoczi FC. The then 22-year-old impressed at the trial with the Hungarian club and was offered a youth contract.
In an interview with The New Paper, Putra opinionated that Singapore footballers are not all that different from European footballers at all.
“Honestly, Singapore footballers have the same level of skill. It’s just that Europeans are stronger physically and mentally.”
“When they chase the ball, they know they will get it. They have a lot of will power and they hate to lose. That’s the key difference between us and them.”
– Ahmad Hakimputra
According to WikiWand, Putra left Kaposvari Rakoczi FC on July 2013 after his contract expired. He is currently a free agent.
10. Amer Hakeem
Amer Hakeem is the youngest son of Singapore footballing legend Nazri Nasir. At the age of 14, Amer already stood 1.8 metres tall and earned a training stint at the prestigious Ajax Academy in Holland which produced footballing greats like Dennis Bergkamp and Edgar Davids.
Amer played as a centre-back for the National Football Academy Under-15s team back in 2013 at the 25th Lion City Cup.
Amer is described as a potential star in the making with “humility, willingness to learn and effervescent leadership ability.”
11. Hariss Harun
In 2007, when Hariss Harun started his career with Young Lions in S-League, he was the youngest player ever in the S-League at the age of 16 years 3 months and 18 days. In the same year, Hariss earned himself a spot to train at Barcelona’s training ground, La Masia — the same training academy that produced Lionel Messi, arguably one of the greatest footballer alive.
Hariss was made captain in three friendly games against players from FC Barcelona’s Youth Academy and eventually returned Singapore with the MVP award.
Today, Hariss is plying his trade with Johor Darul Ta’zim after turning down a move to Portuguese top level club, Rio Ave, and is also now the highest paid Singaporean footballer, bringing home US$30,000 a month.
12. Bryan Neubronner
Bryan Neubronner was a key member of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games football team that captured the bronze medal. In 2013, Bryan signed a full-time 18-month professional contract with German fourth divison club SSV Ulm 1846.
The move came after the winger made six appearances and scored once for the club’s Under-19 side.
Like Ahmad Hakimputra, Bryan also reckons that there really isn’t much different between our local footballers and European footballers, with professionalism being the main difference.
“Players in Germany have much better physique. Skill-wise, there isn’t much of a gap.”
“If the NFA Under-17 side played here, they wouldn’t get thrashed. But we won’t be high up the (youth) league either.”
“The big difference is in the professionalism.”
– Bryan Neubronner
Today, Neubronner is 20-years-old and is currently still with Ulm.
Born in Singapore, Developed Elsewhere?
While Singapore currently languishes 149th in the official FIFA rankings (as at 3 Dec), the future for Singapore football looks bright with more local aspiring footballers actually seeking to develop their game in Europe and South America.
Izwan’ s potential success to securing a full-time professional contract with Matsumoto Yamaga FC can very well inspire the new generation of local footballers that it is definitely possible to ply their trade outside of the Southeast Asia region.
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Featured image via IRememberSG, Soccer Series Wallpaper, BolaSepak
With reference to Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, Wikipedia, The Straits Times, The Straits Times, The Straits Times, FourFourTwo, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Sports, Tourist In My Own Land WordPress, AsiaOne, AsiaOne, AsiaOne, WikiWand, MyActiveSG, The New Paper