Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / Sports / Soccer

Sunny side up: Singapore keeper's saves send Chinese fans to his hawker stall

By Liang Shuang | | Updated: 2024-06-13 20:40
Share - WeChat
Team China players trudge off the field after scraping a draw with Thailand in a 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Shenyang, Liaoning province, on June 6. XINHUA

Chinese soccer fans flocked to a food stall in Singapore on Wednesday after the owner of the stall, who is also the goalkeeper of the Singaporean national men's soccer team, made a dozen key saves on Tuesday night to allow Team China to escape elimination from the qualifier of the 2026 FIFA World Cup with the narrowest of margins.

After a 1-0 defeat in South Korea, Team China's hope to enter the World Cup was hanging by a thread, as a three-goal win for Thailand, who faced bottom-placed Singapore at home in Bangkok, would have sent Thailand through and got China eliminated.

However, largely thanks to Hassan Sunny, the 40-year-old goalie for Singapore who made 11 saves during the match and even received a yellow card warning for delaying the match during the final minutes, the match ended with a 3-1 win for Thailand.

China and Thailand both got 8 points after six rounds of matches, and both scored and conceded nine goals. But because China managed a win and a draw against Thailand in direct matches, China earned the second place ranking in the group stage, while Thailand ranked third and was eliminated. Had Sunny made one less save and conceded one more goal amid Thailand's desperate attack, China would have been out.

Many Chinese soccer fans applauded Team China's efforts to fend off goals against the high-ranked South Korean team, while cheering, perhaps with a much higher volume, for the Singaporean team, especially for Sunny.

"If there's a celebratory banquet tonight, no one should even touch their chopsticks if Singaporeans don't show up," one commenter wrote on the Weibo social media platform that received many likes.

"It was actually quite moving to see him delaying the game and giving his teammates some breathing room, even though they were trailing," another commenter said, as generally only the team that is in the lead would do so to secure the win.

Many fans also found out about Sunny's side gig — operating a stall named Dapur Hassan, or "Hassan's kitchen", in a food court in Singapore, which was featured on Sunny's Facebook and Instagram accounts. The accounts, along with the Singaporean embassy's and the nation's official tourism promotion accounts, were also flooded with praise from Chinese fans.

To show their gratitude, overjoyed Chinese fans crowded Sunny's stall to order food.

A man surnamed Li told Hubei province-based Jimu News that he ordered nasi lemak — a famous Southeast Asian rice dish cooked with coconut milk — that cost 5.80 Singaporean dollars ($4.30) at the stall on Wednesday, which he described as "authentic" as it was popular among locals.

"I spent about 40 minutes there, and more people came to the stall, with many wearing Team China's jersey," Li said, adding that even livestreamers began showing up. Group, a popular China-based online travel agency, told Beijing Business Today on Wednesday that as of the noon, some 20 percent of the express car-hailing orders were from Singapore's Changi Airport to Sunny's diner.

In a short video circulating on social media, the Singaporean goalie expressed his gratitude for the support he's received from Chinese fans, saying "thanks China" with a holding fist salute.

Despite narrowly escaping elimination, Team China still faces huge challenges as it vies for the 8.5 spots among 18 Asian teams to qualify for the World Cup, as it only ranked 13th in Asia. Nevertheless, many fans said it would be vital for the team, which has long performed below expectations, to play in at least in 10 high-level matches that would help it get better.

The next stage of the qualifying tournament will start in September.

Most Popular


What's Hot
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349