SINGAPORE - Singapore footballer Hassan Sunny was named by British newspaper The Telegraph as the 18th best goalkeeper in the world on Tuesday (April 12) - but the custodian initially thought someone was pulling a fast one.
The 32-year-old, currently playing for Army United in the Thai Premier League, joins global stars like Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer (1st), Manchester United's David de Gea (2nd) and Arsenal's Petr Cech (5th) in the star-studded list.
Currently in Singapore for a short holiday, 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."
He added: "I'm a bit shocked, to be honest. It's a huge recognition for me, to be rated amongst the best in the world."
He 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.
Hassan, who in 2014 became the first goalkeeper to win the S-League Player of the Year award, credited his stint in Thailand for putting him in the spotlight. His outstanding shift last season saw him make Thai sporting news portal SMM Sport's team of the year.
He said: "To be honest, my club is a mid-table team. But playing against the top teams has helped me to improve. We play at a high intensity week in week out against teams with good players and strong foreigners.
"(The accolade) is something I will remember, especially for me now, it's quite difficult (to be recognised) because for the past few years I have not been playing for the national team."
Tampines Rovers' Izwan Mahbud made the number one spot his own after keeping a clean sheet against Japan last June, but Hassan said he will always fight to regain his position between the sticks.
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."