Singapore international Hassan Sunny is determined to rise to the challenge of playing overseas after completing his move to Thailand’s Army United.
Following a three-day trial earlier this month which has ultimately proved to be successful, Hassan has put pen to paper on a one-year deal with the Thai Premier League outfit and arrived in Bangkok on Sunday to begin his journey as a foreign player plying his trade in what many currently regard as the best league in Southeast Asia.
The 30-year-old already made history last year when he became the first goalkeeper to win the S.League’s Player of the Year award, after his consistent displays helped former side Warriors FC claim their first league crown since 2009.
Following that success, he was Singapore’s first-choice custodian in their ill-fated 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup title defence, where they were eliminated in the group stages, and was preparing for the upcoming S.League campaign with new side Tampines Rovers.
However, the Stags maintained they would not stand in the player’s way should an offer from overseas come his way, and with his move to Army now completed, Hassan is now ready to make the most of what he admits is a ‘dream’ move.
“I think most people know that it’s very difficult – or should I say almost impossible – for goalkeepers to get out there and play outside Singapore,” he told Football SEA.
“Even more so when you consider it’s a league that has a limit on foreign players.
“I can only say a dream has been realised for me to get the chance to play overseas.”
Considering he is arguably one of the region’s top two goalkeepers, along with Muangthong United star Kawin Thamsatchanan, the fact that foreign teams have shown interest in him should come as no surprise.
Nonetheless, he admits there will always be reservations over signing a foreign goalkeeper, but is relishing the chance to prove any doubters wrong.
“I guess there will always be people who believe a foreign player spot would be wasted on a goalkeeper,” Hassan added.
“Initially, even the club were uncertain if they needed a foreign goalkeeper, but everything changed at the end of the day and they decided to sign me.
“What I need to now do is to prove that goalkeepers are as important to the team as outfield players.”
In recent times, several of Singapore’s top players have been courted by foreign sides with Hariss Harun, Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan all playing for Johor Darul Ta’zim I and II in Malaysia.
Still, Hassan can lay claim to being the first local-born Singaporean to earn a move to Thailand, although English-born John Wilkinson did play for Police United in 2011.
And the former Geylang International and Courts Young Lions man is hoping he can inspire the next generation of footballers in the country – both outfielders and goalkeepers – to dream big.
“Hopefully the young ones can learn from this,” he said. “Especially our young goalkeepers.
“It’s all about changing the mind-set and believing that nothing is impossible.
“All you need to do is have a dream or set a target, and then work in that direction.
“Work hard – work harder than anyone else.”
Hassan is certainly no stranger to hard work given he is renowned for his professionalism and discipline on the training track, and he showed tremendous resilience to bounce back from a wretched run with injuries in 2011 and 2012.
Another challenge now awaits him as he embarks on an adventure in a new country with a different lifestyle and culture to Singapore.
But displaying his trademark assuredness, Hassan insists it is just something he will have to deal with as a foreign player in Thailand.
“To be honest, I believe one has to get out of their comfort zone in order to be successful,” he revealed.
“Sometimes you have to struggle and overcome it to achieve something – nothing comes easy.
“Sure, as a foreign player arriving in Thailand I will need to adapt to their culture and other aspects and it will probably take a while, but I don’t see it being a problem.”
Hassan will be looking to make his Army debut on February 14 when his side open their 2015 Premier League campaign against newly-promoted Siam Navy.
Photo credit: BP Chua (Axrosstheline)