Back in 2015, a youth prospect from JDT's own academy came through the ranks at an amazing rate and eventually found himself playing a prominent role for the first team as The Southern Tigers went on to claim a historic triumph in the AFC Cup to lift the second most prestigious club competition in Asia.
The then 22-year-old Fazly Mazlan was heralded as Malaysia's next big thing as the left back displayed tremendous maturity and technical ability, looking very much not only part of the first team but a nailed-on starter for JDT on every occasion. Possessing a powerful engine and boundless energy, Fazly's stock rose through the roof but sustainability became a problem.
Towards the end of 2017 season, having seen the slump in Fazly's progress and form, JDT moved to secure the signing of La'Vere Corbin-Ong from the Dutch Erste Divisie club Go Ahead Eagles. Corbin-Ong quickly assumed the left back berth from Fazly and the latter's star diminished as quickly as it shone.
In a case of rare irony, having been first pushed out of the club due to him seeing his path to the first team blocked by the combination of Corbin-Ong and Fazly, Syazwan has found himself usurping Fazly's role in the team and will spend the entire 2019 season pushing Corbin-Ong for a place in the starting line-up.
It has been quite the turnaround of fortunes for Syazwan who was a capable player in his day but has improved significantly over the course of the last two years, strangely through his exposure and performances for the Malaysia Under-23 and senior national team squads, rather than for his club performances.
When the window of opportunity opened up for JDT following KL's failure to fork out two months worth of salary to Syazwan and the five-time Malaysia Super League just could not turn down the chance to secure a capable replacement and competition for Corbin-Ong, and in the process further push Fazly down the pecking order.
In truth, comparison between Fazly and Syazwan on paper will still show the former to be the superior player. But football definitely isn't reliant on purely numbers on a piece of paper and with Fazly's confidence shot to pieces ever since that 5-2 mauling by Muangthong United in the 2018 AFC Champions League qualifier, the coaches at JDT's were at their wits end with Fazly.
Just like his predecessor, the 22-year-old Syazwan now has the opportunity to travel along the same path which Fazly took and try to make a better fist of things. It will not be easy for Syazwan to dislodge Corbin-Ong from the first eleven but the huge number of potential matches that JDT will involve in, will work to his favour.
With the Super League, FA Cup, Malaysia Cup and ACL the four competitions that JDT will feature in, there will be plenty of playing opportunites for Syazwan even if he were to start as back-up to Corbin-Ong. Assuming JDT does not get out of the ACL group stage, reach the semi-final of the both the FA Cup and Malaysia Cup - that is still 44 matches to be played.
The pairing will work as a double-edged sword for JDT as they will now have an option to afford Corbin-Ong some rest time and afford him a breather every now and then, and allow Syazwan the chance to grow as part of the first team furniture. If and when Syazwan gets his opportunity, it is also a chance to improve his understanding with the likes of Akhyar Rashid and Safawi Rasid, which would in turn benefit the national team.
One man's loss is another's gain. Football can be a cruel business at the best of times. Fazly's loss has become Syazwan's to gain.
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