Football: Singapore's Hassan Sunny stunned to be among top 20 goalies

The 32-year-old Hassan Sunny, who plays for Army United in Thailand, hopes his improved form will help him regain a starting place in the Singapore national team.
The 32-year-old Hassan Sunny, who plays for Army United in Thailand, hopes his improved form will help him regain a starting place in the Singapore national team.THE NEW PAPER FILE PHOTO

Singapore footballer Hassan Sunny was named by British newspaper The Telegraph as the 18th best goalkeeper in the world on Tuesday - but the custodian initially thought it was a prank.

The 32-year-old, currently playing for Army United in the Thai Premier League, joined Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer (1st), Manchester United's David de Gea (2nd) and Arsenal's Petr Cech (5th) as the only Asian on the star-studded list.

Back in Singapore for a short holiday, a shocked Hassan told The Straits Times: "When I first saw the link on Facebook, I thought it was a belated April Fool's joke. After all, you can't trust everything you see online. It was only after I started getting congratulatory messages from friends and colleagues that I realised it was real."

But it is real. The Telegraph's online team explained Hassan's inclusion: "Lists discussing the best players in the world are very often Eurocentric, and we wanted to focus on goalkeepers hailing from a range of continents, and playing for clubs not necessarily in Europe's 'big five' leagues.

"We felt that Hassan's achievements, which includes becoming the first goalkeeper to win the Player of the Year award in the S-League, and his inclusion in (Thai media company) SMM Sport's Team of the Year, and the vast number of international caps he has won, merited him a place on the list."

Hassan is the second Singaporean footballer to be lauded by the British press. In 2014, Irfan Fandi, the eldest son of Singapore legend Fandi Ahmad, was named by The Guardian as one of the top 40 young talents in world football.

  • THE TELEGRAPH'S WORLD TOP 20 GOALKEEPERS

  • 1 Manuel Neuer (Germany and Bayern Munich)

    2 David de Gea (Spain and Manchester United)

    Gianluigi Buffon (Italy and Juventus)

    4 Mattia Perin (Italy and Genoa)

    5 Petr Cech (Czech Republic and Arsenal)

    6 Claudio Bravo (Chile and Barcelona)

    Hugo Lloris (France and Tottenham)

    8 Thibaut Courtois (Belgium and Chelsea)

    9 Kevin Trapp (Germany and Paris Saint-Germain)

    10 Keylor Navas (Costa Rica and Real Madrid)

    11 Bernd Leno (Germany and Bayer Leverkusen)

    12 Joe Hart (England and Manchester City)

    13 Fernando Muslera (Uruguay and Galatasaray)

    14 Igor Akinfeev (Russia and CSKA Moscow)

    15 Samir Handanovic (Slovenia and Inter Milan)

    16 Stephane Ruffier (France and Saint-Etienne)

    17 Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Germany and Barcelona)

    18 Hassan Sunny (Singapore and Army United)

    19 Jack Butland (England and Stoke)

    20 Carlos Kameni ( Cameroon and Malaga)

Other goalkeepers from Asian Football Confederation member nations who missed out in the list include Oman's Ali Al-Habsi (Reading), Japan's Eiji Kawashima (Dundee United) and the Australian trio of Mathew Ryan (Valencia), Adam Federici (Bournemouth) and Mitchell Langerak (Stuttgart).

Napoli's Pepe Reina and Leicester's Kasper Schmeichel, both first-choice goalkeepers for title-chasing European teams, are big names not on the list.

Crediting his stint in Thailand for boosting his career, Hassan added: "(The accolade) is something I will remember, especially as it's quite difficult (to be recognised) because for the past few years I have not been playing (regularly) for the national team."

Tampines Rovers' Izwan Mahbud made the No. 1 spot his own after keeping a clean sheet away to Japan last June, but Hassan said he will always fight to regain his position between the sticks for the Lions.

He said: "You have to give credit to Izwan, he played well against Japan and kept his place. It's normal, I don't see him as an enemy. But I played in the last two games and I hope to be given chances for the upcoming matches."

Some Internet users have questioned the credibility of this list and whether it can be taken seriously.

To that, Hassan replied: "Singapore is not known for its football, so this must mean something.

"But to me (the accolade) is just a bonus. It's more important to stay humble and keep working hard. I just hope I've made Singapore proud, that's all."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'Hassan stunned to be among top 20 goalies'. Print Edition | Subscribe