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Young Lions captain Jacob Mahler secures move to Indonesia’s Madura United

SINGAPORE – Itching to get out of his comfort zone, Young Lions captain Jacob Mahler has officially completed his move to Indonesian top-tier side Madura United, the Liga 1 outfit announced on Friday.

The 23-year-old centre-back, who will be linking up with his new team next week, told The Straits Times: “The Indonesian league is a very good league where the level of competition is higher. I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to make this move abroad.”

Mahler will be following in the footsteps of former Singaporean internationals such as Baihakki Khaizan, Mustafic Fahrudin and Noh Alam Shah, who had plied their trade in Indonesia.

Playing a key role in the move is his former coach, Singapore icon Fandi Ahmad, who helmed the Indonesian side from 2006 to 2010 when they were known as Pelita Jaya. After an ownership change in 2016, they became Madura United.

When asked how the move came about, Mahler credited Fandi, who is now coaching Malaysian side Sri Pahang.

Mahler said: “Coach Fandi linked me up, having been a coach there, and the club contacted me saying that they were interested.”

The 1.84m defender will be filling Madura’s Asean import slot. Under the Indonesian league’s rules, clubs can sign up to six foreigners – including one from an Asean country – in line with the Asian Football Confederation’s latest quota for club competitions.

Madura director Annisa Zharfani Qosasi said on social media that they believe Mahler “will be an important factor in the team’s formation”, adding: “We hope that with the presence of this Asean player, Madura United will improve. Jacob possesses all the qualities to prove he is a good player.”

Madura finished eighth in the 18-team Liga 1 last season. With the addition of Mahler, who looks set to partner Indonesia captain Fachruddin Aryanto in the heart of defence, they will be looking to further tighten their backline, which conceded the third-fewest goals in the last campaign.

Mahler, who made his Singapore Premier League (SPL) debut at the age of 18 five years ago, did not feature at the recent SEA Games in Cambodia as he was over the age limit of 22.

He had just returned to action from an anterior cruciate ligament injury earlier this season and racked up four SPL appearances for the Young Lions – the last being a 1-1 draw against Lion City Sailors on April 15.

Those matches had given him a boost following his long lay-off.

Mahler, who completed his full-time national service last November, said: “I felt it was the right time to step out of my comfort zone. I’ve put in a few good performances in the league this year and have gained some confidence.”

Ahead of his Indonesian Liga 1 debut – the new season kicks off on July 1 – he is already setting his sights on silverware.

Mahler added: “The club is a big club in Indonesia. It’s a very good team challenging for the title this year. I’m excited about this challenge and looking forward to fighting for the team.

“I hope to help them become champions of Indonesia.”