Hassan Sunny hopes to make amends
Lions goalkeeper determined to thwart arch-rivals Malaysia
SINGAPORE v MALAYSIA
(Friday, 8pm, Singtel TV Ch 109 - Eleven)
He says he hardly lost any sleep over what happened.
But there is no doubt national goalkeeper Hassan Sunny will be out to prove a point, when Singapore take on Malaysia in their Causeway Challenge clash at the National Stadium on Friday.
After all, the last time the Malaysians visited Kallang, just under two years ago at the AFF Suzuki Cup, it was a night to forget for Hassan.
With Singapore trailing 2-1 in injury time, the shot-stopper strode the length of the field in a desperate attempt to help his side draw level, after the Lions were awarded a free-kick.
National captain Shahril Ishak whipped the ball into the box and Hassan flung all of his 1.84m, 85kg body towards it, but missed.
Malaysia launched a counter-attack, and Indra Putra Mahayuddin eventually rolled the ball into an empty goal to cap off a 3-1 win, which knocked Singapore out of the tournament at the group stage.
Worse was to come for Hassan, who was mercilessly mocked online by football fans across the Causeway.
A video of Singapore singer-songwriter Taufik Batisah's song "Awak kat mana?" (Where are you?) tweaked to "Keeper kat mana?", with an actor donning Hassan's jersey spoofing him being lost in public places, also went viral.
"I saw the taunts, the comments, the video... But no, it doesn't bother me at all," Hassan told The New Paper after training yesterday, with a laugh.
"I'm strong enough to carry all this. It's part and parcel of football, especially from the opposition fans.
"I took the risk, things didn't go my way, but that doesn't mean that was the reason we lost."
Indeed, the 32-year-old shot stopper only went from strength to strength after the Suzuki Cup disappointment.
While he lost the No. 1 spot in the national team to Izwan Mahbud - who produced a Man-of-the-Match performance in the famous 0-0 draw with Japan in Saitama in a World Cup qualifier in June 2015 - for a period, Hassan's form has been on the rise since he signed for Thai side Army United before the start of the 2015 season.
He even made it to British newspaper The Telegraph's list of top 20 goalkeepers in the world, in April this year.
Hassan, who was named the S.League Player of the Year in 2014 after winning the title with Warriors FC, said: "Everyone knows that if you play at a high level, you become a better player.
"I can't say I'm at the best team in Thailand but, with the training I get and the level of the Thai league, I feel like I'm playing an international game week in, week out.
"I've learnt a lot from this overseas stint. That's why when I come back with the national team, I share with the boys what it's like to play against teams like Chonburi every week."
Hassan is eager to show local fans just how much playing in the Thai league has improved his game.
"I'm not sure if I'll start but, given a chance, of course I want to do well because it's a big game for us," he said.
"We're talking about the Singapore-Malaysia rivalry, and it's all the more important now since it is just six weeks to the Suzuki Cup."
National coach V Sundramoorthy played his cards close to his chest about team selection ahead of Friday's match, and praised both Hassan and Izwan.
"Both of them are really good goalkeepers," said the coach. "For me, it's a happy problem to have.
"We can count on them, and you can even count on our third and fourth goalkeepers, Zaiful Nizam and Syazwan Buhari, to always work hard and push them in training."
Added Hassan: "The competition we have is healthy... We push each other on the field, but have no issues off it. It's the same with Zaiful and Safuwan.
"Izwan has his days, as he showed against Japan, and I did not have a good tournament in 2014.
"But everyone seems to forget football is a team sport. One good player won't guarantee you a win and one bad player won't guarantee you a loss.
"If called upon, I will do my best, as always."