FROM ZERO TO HERO: LOCAL GOALIE MAKES GOOD IN THAILAND

He was written off as a failure after a series of bad decisions during the ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup match cost the Lions precious points in their 3-1 loss to Malaysia last November. Malaysian fans even created parody videos to mock him for his poor performance, while Singaporean fans shunned him.

Yet Hassan Sunny marched on. Today, he is one of the best goal keepers in the Thai Premier League, signed with Thai club Army United.

Ironically, it was Hassan’s performance at the Suzuki Cup that caught the attention of his future club manager, Gary Stevens, who decided to sign the goalie after a good recommendation from goalkeeping coach John Burridge.

Despite the challenges of playing in a foreign league, Hassan has proven his worth in numerous matches, where his saves made the difference for his team and helped Army reach the FA Cup semi-finals. Army will take on Muangthong United next month. His performance has also contributed to helping his club finish 9th in the 18-team table, with 8 games to go till the end of the TPL.

Hassan told reporters from TODAY, “I had a bit of a struggle with the media and the fans here at the start. People were questioning and criticising the club for filling up one of their five foreign player slots with a goalkeeper from Singapore. In addition, I found it tough to adapt to the new environment, culture and food.

“But I kept my head down, worked hard and let my feet and hands do the talking on the pitch. After two months, I had all my critics silenced. People are starting to warm up to me and I feel the love from the fans and the club.”

Army announced earlier this week that they had extended Hassan’s contract for a further two years, to 2017.

“It’s not easy playing in a foreign league, especially one as competitive as the TPL,” added Hassan.

“But now people start recognising me on the street after a good season. It’s easier to recognise a footballer here, because of the advertisements and media support we get. And whenever people talk to me, they’ll mention Singapore.

“People have been telling me that I have made Singapore proud, so I’m proud to fly the flag for my country and I hope to continue my good performances ’til the end of the season.”

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