|By Bhas Kunju
and Khalis Rifhan
Former Japanese international Kazuyuki Toda was officially unveiled by new club Singapore Armed Forces FC [SAFFC] at a press conference at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Wednesday afternoon.
A prominent member of the Japanese national set-up in the late 90s and early 2000s, Toda turned out for the Blue Samurais at the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship and the 2000 Olympics football competition.
Toda, who was plying his trade for F.C. Machida Zelvia in the Japanese second division prior to his move to Singapore, explained why he left the Land of the Rising Sun for the island state.
“It is difficult to explain what took place, but I had issues with the club. That is why I had to resign from the team. But before encountering those issues, I had received a great offer from SAFFC,” he said.
“At that time I still had the confidence to play as a football player and I thought it was a good opportunity to challenge myself again overseas, and that is the reason why I decided to come to Singapore.”
Leaving behind his problems in Japan, the former Tottenham Hotspur player mesmerized head coach V. Selvaraj when they first met at Changi Airport last weekend.
“When I formed the team for the 2013 [S.League] season, I felt that there was one role in this team that needs to be addressed. When I met him at the airport, [I took] one look at him and I realized that he is a true professional," Selvaraj explained.
“He came with his suit and is very well mannered and [has] a brilliant attitude. I had constant contact with him through emails before he came here and during training sessions I watched him play.”
With the team leaking goals last season and finishing in their lowest position since the inception of the S.League, Selvaraj feels that Toda is the answer to put a stop to that predicament.
“I am convinced that he can adapt to that single role, which is [that of] a holding midfielder," the former Singapore international said.
"He has played that role at a higher level and will definitely add a lot of strength to my defence and that is one thing that has been lacking in SAFFC for the past two years.”
Speaking through a translator, Toda made no attempt to hide the reason for the Warriors' securement of his services and hopes there will be a vibrant atmosphere in the stands as well.
“I am well aware of the fact that I have a big role and responsibility to fulfill in the league as a star player and [I am] prepared to play up to the expectation of the club," he claimed.
"I look forward to perform[ing] well so that the supporters who come to watch the match will be happy to have me.”