PLAYER OF THE YEAR
He came back, he saw the opportunity, he conquered, and now national goalkeeper Hassan Sunny wants to leave the S.League for greener pastures.
Last night, the Warriors FC star became the first goalkeeper to win the Player of the Year Award at the S.League Awards Night at the ITE College East.
He had kept seven clean sheets as his team clinched a record ninth league title in a thrilling finale.
The 30-year-old was up against four top strikers in Rodrigo Tosi, Kazuki Sakamoto, Goran Ljubojevic and Fazrul Nawaz, and told The New Paper: "I didn't think I was going to win because of the position I play in. It's unheard of.
"At this point of my career, it could be my last chance to venture out after a successful season."
Hassan was offered an extension by the Warriors last week after his current deal ended, and has also had enquiries from other interested clubs.
While he is appreciative, he will still keep looking for a fresh overseas challenge.
"Ideally, I would like somewhere in the region that is safe for my wife and two kids," he said, and that narrows the search down to Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Japan and South Korea.
Hassan admitted that the new stipulations (each senior local club can sign only five local players over the age of 30) also influenced his decision to challenge himself elsewhere.
He added: "It's a bit disheartening for older players like me to learn about this, but I hope it works out well for the league.
"I fall into the category of 'overaged players', so I am concerned too that I may not have a job if, touch wood, something bad happens next year.
"Hopefully, I can secure a good overseas deal before the Suzuki Cup kicks off at the end of the month."
Hassan has won the Suzuki Cup twice in 2004 and 2007, and his first S.League title in 2011 with Tampines Rovers.
But he always felt those victories were a little hollow personally, because he wasn't always a starter with those winning teams and he felt he had not contributed to the triumphs.
Last night, Hassan was finally a happy man and nobody can take away the fact that he is deserving - both as the Player of the Year and as a league winner - with a series of outstanding performances this year.
Explaining that the double accolades were the sweetest moments of his football career, Hassan said: "After two anterior cruciate-ligament injuries, I was out in 2011 and 2012, and some coaches said it was time for me to retire.
"I didn't for a single moment think about that, and I want to thank former Warriors FC coach Richard Bok for giving me a three-year contract in 2011 because he believed in me.
"Last year wasn't a good year for the club because we finished seventh and many goals flew past me.
"But I worked harder from eight to five daily because I believed I could contribute more to the team and win back my place in the national team.
"I'm happy my hard work has translated into these wins and I hope it will continue right to the end of this year's Suzuki Cup."
At this point of my career, it could be my last chance to venture out after a successful season. - Hassan Sunny
This article was first published on Nov 10, 2014.
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