Hassan Sunny eyes third AFF Cup crown with retirement far from his mind

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Kelvin Leong

He may be 34 but Army United stopper Hassan Sunny has vowed to continue playing for Singapore even after the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup later this year.

Hassan who has been named in Fandi Ahmad’s first squad since the Singapore icon took on the role of interim head coach of the national team in May.

Four-time champions Singapore have been drawn into Group B alongside Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia and Timor Leste/Brunei and will kick off their campaign at home on November 9 at the National Stadium.

Having tasted AFF Suzuki Cup success in 2004 and 2007, the Thalandi-based goalkeeper knows the importance of winning this tournament but has also urged his teammates to use the showpiece event as an opportunity to put themselves in the shop window for a move abroad.

“For me personally, Suzuki Cup is where players need to show their full potential as there will be eyes on the players. Clubs and scouts around the region will watch this tournament and you never know, you may end up playing in the best leagues in Southeast Asia. That was how I got into the Thai League three years ago.”

While the veteran stopper is now playing mentor to his younger counterparts in the national team, Hassan is adamant that he still has plenty to offer on the pitch, with retirement far from his mind.

“I am not sure if this will be my last Suzuki Cup but if given the opportunity, I will give my absolute best to bring the cup back to Singapore,” he added.

“Retirement has yet to come across my mind even at the age of 34. I’ve been taking extra care of my body and focusing a lot on injury prevention and recovery work.

“I am doing my very best to make sure I stay in good condition to keep myself in good shape, so that I can prolong my playing career. So, it is safe to say I am definitely not retiring anytime soon!”

Hassan and his Singapore teammates will have four international friendlies in September and October to impress Fandi, before the latter picks his final 23-man squad for the tournament.

Everything about Singapore’s preparations for 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup

With Izwan Mahbud and Zaiful Nizam providing stiff competition in the goalkeeping department, Hassan is refusing to spend his time worrying about that, preferring to focus on the entire team getting in sync with their new manager’s tactics and formation.

He said: “It is very important for us players to know what the new coach wants in terms of playing style and team organization on the pitch.

“It’s definitely going to be different as we have a new set of coaches so these four friendlies will be a good gauge and preparation for the Suzuki Cup.

“At this very moment, I think we need to worry more about ourselves first, know our own strengths and weaknesses instead of worrying about who starts and who doesn’t. We must identify what we need to work on quickly, the areas where we are good at and put it together in order to stand a chance.”

Hassan and the Lions will report for national team duty on Monday before facing Mauritius on September 7 and Fiji four days later at the Bishan Stadium.