Hassan Sunny reveals why he broods even after winning
Home United custodian Hassan Sunny reveals why he's never satisfied
|ALBIREX NIIGATA||HOME UNITED|
Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov describes the goalkeeper as "the lone eagle, the man of mystery, the last defender".
English poet Simon Armitage wrote: "Goalkeepers are, by definition, weirdos and odd ones out: They put their faces where others put their studs.
"Their chosen function in a sport defined by its flow and energy is one of apparent inaction followed by occasional moments of joy-killing intervention."
Singapore and Home United custodian Hassan Sunny, one of the best the Republic has produced, understands exactly what they mean.
The Protectors may have beaten Global 5-4 on aggregate to reach the AFC Cup Asean zonal finals, and thumped Brunei DPMM 9-3 in a league match; his teammates celebrate with wild abandon, but Hassan would brood: "Could I have kept out those goals?"
Even clean sheets do not please him entirely.
His last one came four matches ago (six if you count the international matches, and he sat out the 2-1 win over the Garena Young Lions).
Hassan, 33, told The New Paper: "I always want to be better than the previous game.
"And so, I'm never happy, never satisfied."
Okay, he did feel happy at least once. An 11-year-old Hassan, then a central midfielder and captain of May Primary School, scored from the kick-off in the centre circle to equalise and help his team win 2-1.
An asthma attack while he was in Primary 6 saw him redeployed between the sticks, where he has made his mark.
In his cabinet are two AFF winners' medals with the national team from the 2005 and 2007 triumphs, a 2007 SEA Games bronze medal, an S.League title with Warriors FC in 2014, when he was also voted the S.League Player of the Year.
He then became the first Singaporean to play in the Thai Premier League when he signed for Army United in 2015. Last year, he was named the world's 18th-best goalkeeper by British newspaper The Telegraph.
But, as he puts it, he lives in the present, and he is unhappy to see his team in third place, eight points behind tonight's opponents and S.League leaders Albirex Niigata, albeit with a game in hand.
"They may be unbeaten, but they are definitely not unbeatable," he declared, as he aims to shut out the likes of 16-goal Tsubasa Sano and help Home become the first team to prevent the Japanese side from scoring this season.
"In our last encounter, we led 2-0 until just before half-time and really should have beaten them but ended with a 2-2 draw.
"We are still the only team to have taken points off them and, this time, we want to be the first to beat them and close the gap.
"I believe after the first round, the other teams will also know what to expect and are capable of beating them, too.
"But we are focused on what we have to do. We have a good squad and technical staff.
"The first-team players are on form and the youngsters have also shown they can come in and perform."
With leaders in each department - Hassan in goal, Irfan Fandi in defence, Hariss Harun in midfield and Stipe Plazibat in attack - Home certainly look like they have what it takes to topple Albirex.
And even then, Hassan's hunger for success remains insatiable, even as his fellow Class of '84 mates like Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan are preparing for life after football.
He revealed to TNP: "Becoming the first AFC Cup Asean zonal champions would mean a lot and, of course, we want to win the domestic competitions, too.
"I still hope to play top-division football overseas, and win a trophy with a foreign team, something I did not accomplish with Army United.
"It could be in the Malaysia or Thailand league if they have an Asean slot next season, and I also hope to achieve something with the national team.
"Dreams are achieved through hard work and that's what I'm focused on doing with Home United now."
'Captain Tsubasa' dreams of playing for Samurai Blue
It is no surprise that Tsubasa Sano, Albirex Niigata's new addition this season, has been likened to Captain Tsubasa in the famous Japanese manga, anime and video game series.
Staying true to the comic hero's motto of "the ball is my friend", the striker's performances for Albirex in the Great Eastern-Hyundai S.League this season suggest that he was born to play football and there's nothing he can't do with the ball at his feet.
Since joining the White Swans this season, the 23-year-old Japanese has wasted no time in stamping his mark, scoring 16 goals in 11 matches to top the scoring charts, two ahead of Home United hotshot Stipe Plazibat.
The two marksmen will go head-to-head in a highly anticipated S.League clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium tonight.
Asked if Captain Tsubasa is a fitting nickname for him, Sano quipped: "I think the character Hyuga Kojiro is more fitting to the kind of player and striker I am."
Kojiro, a recurring character in the Captain Tsubasa series, is a talented footballer known for his strength and his determination to score goals.
The Albirex No. 9 opened his S.League account with two goals in the 5-0 rout of the Garena Young Lions in March and bagged a whopping five goals in the 8-0 thrashing over the same opponents last month.
He also scored in the 2-2 draw with Home in April - the only blemish on Albirex's record this season.
Sano's love affair with football started at the age of five.
His parents enrolled him in a kindergarten football academy in Japan, and he subsequently joined his high school's football team before playing for his university team.
"The more I played football with my older brother, the more I fell in love with it," he told The New Paper in an interview.
"I have never once in my life thought of doing something else. It was always football."
Before joining Albirex, Sano graduated with a degree in sports health from Juntendo University.
He admitted that he misses his family and also the fan support back home.
He said: "The fan support in Japan is different. Everyone comes down to support you.
"Here, the support system is smaller. I really hope more Singaporeans will show their support for their teams in the S.League."
For now, he is firmly focused on helping Albirex retain the S.League title.
But he is hoping that his scoring exploits in Singapore will one day help him realise his dream of representing the Japanese national team - or the Samurai Blue as they are known.
"I still have a lot to improve on, I want to become an all-rounded player instead of just being a striker," said Sano.
"Hopefully, I can represent Japan one day."
Albirex will organise their annual Pokemon Day from 6.30pm today, before their match against Home.