10 Facts About Hassan Sunny, Who Has Suddenly Become China Soccer Fans’ Hero

Lions goalkeeper Hassan bin Abdullah Sunny, or just Hassan Sunny to his fans, has become quite a big hit with Chinese football fans.

On 11 June, during a World Cup qualifier against Thailand, he made a whopping 11 saves even though Singapore lost 3-1.

Singapore was booted out of the World Cup qualifiers, so what is so significant about Hassan’s feat, and what has it got to do with the Chinese?

To put it simply, Thailand needed to win by three goals in order to move ahead of China in the qualifiers.

Thanks to Hassan’s incredible saves and a goal from Ikhsan Fandi, China moved on to the final round, despite their 1-0 loss to South Korea in Seoul, because of a better head-to-head record against Thailand.

The result? Chinese fans are now singing Hassan’s praises all over online forums and social media.

Here are 10 facts about 40-year-old Hassan bin Abdullah Sunny, Singapore’s pride and China’s new and unexpected hero!

Who is Hassan Sunny?

Hassan is a Singaporean professional footballer currently playing as a goalkeeper for Singapore Premier League club Albirex Niigata (S) and the Singapore national team.

Over his many years in competitive football, He has earned a reputation as one of the finest goalkeepers in Southeast Asian history, being recognized as a talented goalkeeper known for his athleticism, strong reflexes, shot-stopping skills, distribution, and precise footwork. He has also been noted for his ability to save penalties.

Despite his reserved nature, he’s highly regarded for his strong personality, composed demeanour under pressure, skill in organising his defence, leadership, and astute reading of the game throughout his career.

From Midfielder to Goalkeeper

Did you know that Hassan Sunny did not start his football journey as a goalkeeper?

That’s right! When he was 11, Hassan began competitive football and captained May Primary School’s – his primary school– football team.

Though he started out playing as a midfielder, he switched to being a goalkeeper due to an asthma attack he suffered when he was 12.

Talk about a game-changer, right? Who would have thought this incident would become the defining factor that sets the course of Hassan’s career?

He went on to represent Braddell Secondary School football team as well!

Hassan’s Early Career and Rapid Rise

Hassan’s journey to stardom began when he joined Geylang United from the National Football Academy in 2003, when he was just 19 years old.

His impressive performances quickly earned him a spot in the first team, and he was even nominated for the S.League Young Player of the Year due to his impressive confidence and remarkable ability to make stunning saves.

By 2004, he was part of the Young Lions, a newly created team featuring promising talents like Baihakki Khaizan, Shahril Ishak, and Khairul Amri.

These players, including Hassan, were known as the ‘NFA Gang of Four’ because they had been playing together since their early teenage years.

After completing his mandatory National Service in 2006, Hassan went back to Geylang United and became their main goalkeeper.

In 2008, Hassan moved to Tampines Rovers, the fierce rivals of Geylang International. 

In December 2011, Hassan signed with SAFFC after being the first-choice goalkeeper for Tampines Rovers for four years.

He has Four League Titles to His Name

Hassan is the first and only player in Singapore Premier League history to win four league titles with four different clubs – Tampines in 2011, Warriors FC in 2014, Sailors in 2021 and Albirex in 2023.

This means he has helped four different teams become the best in the league during different seasons, showcasing his adaptability and unbeatable strength.

Hassan also made history by becoming the first goalkeeper to win the S.League Player of the Year award in 2014.

This achievement also led him  to win the Golden Gloves in 2023, having achieved a total of nine clean sheets in the league.

For those unaware (and I had to look this up too, don’t worry), this meant that he and his team prevented the opposing side from scoring in those nine matches.

He Delivered Stellar Performances in Thailand

When Hassan joined Army United in the Thai Premier League in 2015, he quickly made his mark.

He started off with a bang, debuting in a 1–0 win against Royal Thai Navy. Then, he really hit his stride with some standout performances, like when he shone in a surprising 1–0 away victory against Suphanburi. 

That match marked Suphanburi’s first home defeat of the 2015 season, with their player Jakkaphan Pornsai admitting that Hassan’s performance was the key reason they lost that day.

His stellar performance earned him the Man of the Match award. When inquired, the goalkeeper believes his game has skyrocketed thanks to the fierce competition in the Thai League.

He confesses that in the Thai League, there is “no such thing as an easy match”, and it feels like he was playing on an international stage each time. 

Anugul Kanyayont, Army United’s goalkeeper coach, showered Hassan with praise stating that he is a true professional, both on and off the field.

Hassan is constantly dedicated to improving his game, taking every piece of advice seriously from the coaches.

He’s Named as One of the World’s Top Goalkeepers

In 2016, Hassan Sunny was ranked 18th on The Daily Telegraph’s list of the world’s top 20 goalkeepers (The Daily Telegraph is a well-known newspaper in the United Kingdom).

He found himself in the company of elite keepers like Petr Čech, Manuel Neuer, and David De Gea, who are some of the best goalkeepers in the world.

The newspaper wrote, “”Hassan Sunny (Singapore and Army United). The only goalkeeper in our top 20 to have never played in Europe. However, that doesn’t mean the achievements of Hassan Sunny – who has represented Singapore more than 80 times at international level – should be ignored.”

Image: Facebook (Hassan Sunny)

Initially, Hassan thought it was a belated April Fools’ joke – but no, it was the real deal! He eventually realised that it was true when friends and family began messaging him their congratulations.

He was ranked higher than England’s Jack Butland, who was 19th, and Cameroon’s Carlos Kameni, who was 20th.

This marks the second time a Singaporean footballer has been rated among the world’s best by a British newspaper. In 2014, The Guardian named Irfan Fandi – eldest son of local football icon Fandi Ahmad – as one of top 40 youth players in the world.

Japan Trials and Adventures

In 2017, Hassan had a taste of professional football in Japan when he linked up with Gainare Tottori, a third-tier club.

Despite a snowstorm causing several hours of delay for the team’s journey from their Gainare base about 200 km away to Osaka, Hassan remained unfazed.

With minimal preparation, he managed to play around 70 minutes in the 3–3 draw against top-tier South Korean team Incheon United at the J-Green Sakai training facility in Tottori.

Hassan mentioned he was pleased with the positive feedback he received from head coach Ryuzo Morioka and the club’s goalkeeper coaches.

He Had a Brush with Injury

Playing for Lion City Sailors in 2021, Hassan faced a tough challenge when he suffered an injury from a collision with a teammate during a match against Balestier Khalsa. 

The collision resulted in Šime Žužul scoring the opening goal for Balestier Khalsa, but the Sailors managed to salvage a point thanks to Stipe Plazibat. 

Despite the setback, he bounced back and helped his team win the 2021 Singapore Premier League title!

Hassan Also Sells… Nasi Padang?

Outside football, who would have thought that Hassan is also an adept entrepreneur?

In October 2021, 37-year-old Hassan and his family opened a Nasi Padang stall, Dapur Hassan (which means “Hassan’s Kitchen”), in Tampines, Singapore.

Image: Instagram (@dapurhassansg)

Open from 8 am to 3 pm, Tuesday through Sunday, the stall is a family affair with his mother-in-law serving as the chef.

In addition to Nasi Padang, they offer a variety of Malay dishes including Nasi Lemak and Mee Soto.

Their top-selling items are reportedly Lontong, Mee Rebus, and Nasi Minyak. They also feature Kuih Lopes and other traditional Malay kueh at affordable prices.

It proved to be quite popular as on August 22, 2023, he launched his second stall at 144 Tampines Street 12, while his main flagship stall remains at 872C Tampines Street 86.

Hassan “Single-handedly Saved China and Singapore’s Relationship”

Due to his aforementioned feat at the World Cup qualifiers in June 2024, Chinese citizens have been flooding Hassan’s Nasi Padang outlets with overwhelming support, publicising its locations on various Chinese online platforms and even leaving five-star reviews even when they have never been to the restaurant.

Dapur Hassan was kept booked and busy over the last couple of days due to Chinese expats and tourists alike flooding the stall in support of their hero.

Some Chinese netizens went as far as depositing money into Dapur Hassan’s Alipay account via an image of its QR code making rounds across Chinese social media platforms. even though the stall, which closed after lunch, was not operating.

It is later revealed that the Chinese individuals were sending money in amounts using the digits “520” because it sounds like “I love you” in Mandarin.

Because of this, Singapore netizens on reddit began joking that Hassan should be given a job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) after he retires from soccer, as he had “saved” Singapore’s foreign relationship with China.

Hassan Sunny’s journey from a young football enthusiast to one of Southeast Asia’s finest goalkeepers is truly inspiring. His story is a testament to hard work, resilience, and the ability to shine even under the most challenging circumstances.

Whether he’s making game-saving stops on the field or serving delicious Nasi Padang off it, Hassan continues to capture the hearts of fans everywhere.