Football: Homecoming for national goalkeeper Hassan Sunny?

National goalkeeper Hassan Sunny was released by Thai club Army United following their relegation and Home United coach Aidil Sharin has said that he is "very keen" for the player to join his club.
National goalkeeper Hassan Sunny was released by Thai club Army United following their relegation and Home United coach Aidil Sharin has said that he is "very keen" for the player to join his club.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

He is likely to play in the S-League next year but seeks a 2018 return to Thailand

He is already 32 and set to return to the S-League after two seasons in the highly rated Thai Premier League (TPL).

But national goalkeeper Hassan Sunny, who is believed to be on the verge of signing for two-time winners Home United, is keen to dispel any talk that his career is headed on a downward trajectory from here on.

Said Hassan, whose former club, nine-time S-League champions Warriors FC, have also signalled their interest in signing him: "It doesn't mean that by coming back to the S-League, it's a step back for me.

"I'm looking for a new challenge and a new club, one which has a good set-up."

He was the only Singaporean playing in the TPL for the past two seasons, where he enjoyed a fairly successful time. He was even rated by British newspaper The Telegraph as the 18th-best goalkeeper in the world in April.

And while the two-time S-League and two-time Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup winner said he would finalise his decision on where he will play in 2017 within the next 10 days, he is already thinking beyond the next year.

Said Hassan, who was released by Bangkok-based Army United with a year of his contract remaining, following their relegation to the second-tier Thai division 1: "If I play in the S-League, it would probably be for a year.

"And in the following year, when the Asean slot kicks in, hopefully I will be able to make it back to Thailand again.

"I enjoyed the atmosphere and the level of football over there (in Thailand) and it's sad that I have to leave on a sudden note."

Starting in 2018, Thai football authorities will implement a slot reserved for South-east Asian players for teams in the TPL. This means that they can field up to a maximum of four non-Asean players as part of their quota of five foreign imports.

While Hassan hopes to put himself in the shop window next season, he will have plenty of experience gleaned from his time in Thailand to bring to his new team.

"I hope to share my experiences with the team. For example, it is important to have not just one goalkeeping coach, but an assistant goalkeeping coach as well."

His experienced pair of hands will be welcomed by the Protectors, who have been lacking a solid leader.

Home's coach Aidil Sharin said: "We're very keen for him to come on board. With him (Hassan) around, it'll give a lot of confidence to our defenders, because he can command and lead.

"This is exactly what we've been lacking this season. We need more experienced players to help our younger ones during high-pressure matches in which our opponents are aggressive."

If Hassan joins the Bishan-based club, who finished fourth in the S-League last season, he will be joined by new signings including defenders Afiq Yunos, Fadli Kamis, midfielder Izzdin Shafiq and winger Christopher van Huizen.

Though Home have lost Danish striker Ken Ilso, their chief goalscorer for the past two seasons, they have found a replacement in Croatian striker Stipe Plazibat, who was Hougang United's top scorer in the league last season with 15 goals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2016, with the headline 'Homecoming for Hassan Sunny?'. Print Edition | Subscribe