Hassan Takes On Sunny Thai Football
The National Team’s custodian achieved his dream of playing overseas when he signed for Army United FC early this year. So how is the S.League Player of the Year Award 2014 winner coping in the
The National Team’s custodian achieved his dream of playing overseas when he signed for Army United FC early this year. So how is the S.League Player of the Year Award 2014 winner coping in the high intensive Thai Premier League, what he thinks about the impressive start of Singapore’s World Cup Qualifying Round and what is one secret which he has never share with anyone except us? Hassan Sunny speaks all…
JPF: It has been 6 months since you left the S.League for Thai Premier League (TPL), how are you coping with the lifestyle and football in Bangkok?
HS: I am already used to the lifestyle here now. Although the pace here is much slower than Singapore’s, it still took me quite a while to get use to it. The first 3 months were really difficult for me though, especially getting Halal food.
Football culture is another thing which I would have to adapt to almost immediately. I still remember when I first came, I was shouting instructions from my goal to my defenders as how I normally would do so during training or even during a match in Singapore. Thai players do not like it. They do not like to be shouted at, haha! Eventually, I think the players feedback to the Goalkeeper coach and it came to my attention. So I have to change, instead of shouting at the players, I have to be more tactful in the words I use. Now, I encourage and motivate them from the back more.
JPF: You are performing well in between the goal for Army United, you look at ease, extremely confident, and the team is also doing very well, currently in the top 4 placing of the TPL, able to share with us what are the things which keep you going strong here?
HS: During my first few months in Thailand, the Thai media was harsh on me. According to my teammates, the media was asking why would a Singaporean take up a foreigner slot in the team. It was not nice to hear those comments. Well, I don’t think I should take it in a way that I need to prove the critics wrong. I feel that those are also things which I shouldn’t be worrying about too. So I tell myself to focus on my own performance, do well in every single opportunity that I would be given and fly the Singapore flag high.
JPF: It seems like your signing for Army United was totally overshadowed by Safuwan’s move to Melbourne City early this year. Are you disappointed with the little coverage considering that you are the first ever Singaporean to play in the TPL too?
HS: Honestly, I did not notice the amount of coverage on me or on Safuwan (Baharudin). I was already training with the team in Thailand when the news of my signing was reported. My only source of media coverage then was through the social media but it did not bother me. In fact, the little attention which I am receiving probably, allows me to focus more on my training and doing well for the club.
JPF: How different is TPL as compared to S.League?
HS: The level of football here is currently much higher than Singapore’s. The standard of the foreigners here is good and the competitiveness among the teammates is extremely strong. For example, an average club like Army United has a huge squad of 25 players. Rightfully, we should have only registered 5 foreigners but we registered 8 instead – 3 of them solely registered for Cup games only. Including myself, we have 4 goalkeepers. If I put in 100% in every training session the 3 of the other goalkeeper will be putting in 120% each, waiting to take over my position! There is no slack day and no easy game here in TPL. This is something which I have never experienced before.
Technically, the players here are also better. At this level, the players are still practicing on their basic first touch passes and controlling in every training session (without fail) which probably some of the clubs in Singapore are not doing. Facilities wise, the clubs’ sponsors in Thailand are pumping in the money aggressively. I remember seeing an overhead projector in Bayern Munich where the coach could do video analysis by just touching on the projection whiteboard using his fingers – we have such projector in Army United. Can you imagine how sophisticated are the training facilities at the other big clubs here?
Lastly, the salary is crazy in TPL. On average, typical Thailand National Team players playing in the TPL are earning up to USD$8,000 (SGD$11,000) a month. Top National Team players in a top club can earn up to a maximum USD$22,000 (SGD$30,000) a month. Apart from the monthly salary, players are also given match bonuses, daily training allowances and even boots allowances.
JPF: TPL footballers are pampered?
HS: No, we are not pampered. I think this should be the way in which a professional footballer should be treated considering the short lifespan of a footballer’s career. Look at JDT (Johor Darul Ta’zim, M.League club), initially I thought those footballers are living in another world but when I reached here some players are each owning 4-5 cars and 4-5 houses. All these treatments and luxurious lifestyles that the footballers are receiving will only motivate and make them want to play his best football in every single game. Those in return enhance the league.
JPF: First ever goalkeeper to be named S.League Player of the Year last year, tell us more about that Award.
HS: Winning the S.League Player of the Year Award is a huge achievement, particularly a huge personal achievement as a a goalkeeper. Having missed the Award twice in year 2010 & 2013, I never thought that I would win this Award last year. And I have always assumed that my nominations are to make up the numbers, haha. So when my name was announced, I was really in tears. Thinking about it, this recognition did help me with my move to Thailand. In fact, the Thai media picked up this news not long ago, they actually asked if I would pick up the same Award in TPL this year! I mean I would love to win something with Army United as the club has never win anything since it turned professional just a couple of years back. It’s too far to talk about that. I would rather concentrate on training and taking each game at a time.
JPF: Tell us more about that third goal against Malaysia in the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2014.
HS: As much as I want to be part of the attack, I am aware that defend is my top priority. But when you are trailing 2-1 with 2 minutes left to be played, everything change. During that game, I made up my mind in a split-second to join in the attack. I did not look at the bench, I did not have any eye contact with any of the coaching staff, and I just went straight into the box to give it a shot. In-swinger came, the ball just sliced off my forehead when I attempted a header, I fell to the ground, the next moment when I recovered, Malaysia’s counter-attack was launched past the middle of the pitch, and there the Malaysians scored their third. I know critics came flooding in but there were also people who walked up to me and said that I was very brave.
JPF: After an impressive start to the World Cup Qualifying campaign, a 4-0 victory over Cambodia and a goalless draw against powerhouse Japan, in your opinion what Singapore has to do to continue with the fine form?
HS: The opening 2 games are great but we cannot let the two results get into our heads, especially the result that we have achieved in Saitama. All players have to continue to work hard and put in the kind of effort that we have shown in the first two games in their respective league. It’s just two games that we have played, there are another 6 more to go. We will have to put these results aside and win all the way. No second way to achieve that.
JPF: Since you are playing in an overseas league now, if given a chance to choose, would you consider retiring overseas or would you want to give your final season to the S.League?
HS: S.League definitely holds a special position in my heart as I am a Singaporean. However, if you ask me now, I would want to continue to play in the TPL as long as I can. Every footballer wants to retire on a high note, I am no different, I want to play and retire at the highest level of football.
JPF: As Junpiter Futbol is the Official Media Partner for SingaCup, an International Youth Football Tournament in Singapore, we have seen many young players working hard and aspired to be like you, a professional footballer playing overseas, any words of encouragement or advice for them?
HS: You need to know the game, understand the game and you will enjoy the game. Football is not a difficult sport, all you need is to put in effort and train hard. Even top players here in TPL, who are already extremely good, they are practicing the same thing and doing the same drills everyday. I am no different; I am still learning and working hard at this level. Remember, it’s not just about the talent, it’s about the effort you put in. Work hard.
JPF: Tell us one secret/habit of yours which no one else knows.
HS: Haha, I do not have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and I am certainly not a neat freak but I love my stuff to be clean! For example, after every training or game, I will ensure my boots and gloves are absolutely clean. That’s the reason why I have my clean towel with me at my goal in every single match/training. Once I got very angry after my daughter had played with my gloves and dirtied it, haha! I am just particular about cleanliness!