Singapore goalkeeper unlikely hero as he saves the day for China

Zhang Long
Chinese fans heap praise on Hassan Sunny as he keeps China's World Cup dreams alive with an outstanding performance against Thailand which denied them a place in the final 18.
Zhang Long

Singapore's national team's goalkeeper, Hassan Sunny, has become an unlikely hero for Chinese football fans, helping keep China's 2026 World Cup hopes alive.

Chinese fans went through a rollercoaster of emotions on Tuesday night. China lost 0-1 to South Korea in the final round of the second stage of the Asian World Cup qualifiers.

Despite this loss, China advanced to the final 18 teams thanks to Thailand's failure to secure a big enough goal difference against Singapore. This allowed China to advance as group runners-up.

Sunny's nearly a dozen saves were considered the key.

Singapore goalkeeper unlikely hero as he saves the day for China
Sunny's social media account

Singaporean goalkeeper Hassan Sunny during the game against Thailand.

After the game, Chinese fans flocked to his social media to express their gratitude. Thailand attempted 35 shots, with 13 on target, including several one-on-one opportunities, all of which Sunny miraculously saved. He even received a yellow card for time-wasting during stoppage time.

The hashtag "China reaches last 18 of the World Cup Qualifying" trended No. 1 on social media platform Weibo, having accumulated 340 million views. A post of "Thank Singaporean buddies" racked up more than 10,000 likes.

"Singapore went all out to send China into the next stage," was one comment on a Weibo.

"Thailand would have scored seven goals if not for him!" was another, as was "The Chinese national team have to thank the goalie."

Singapore goalkeeper unlikely hero as he saves the day for China

Hassan Sunny saves yet another shot from Thailand, winning praise from Chinese football fans.

On China's popular sports forum Hupu, over 100,000 users rated Sunny's performance, awarding him a perfect score and posting over 10,000 comments.

Many Chinese fans said that they would visit Sunny's food shop if they travel to Singapore.

Sunny and his family own a nasi lemak stall and he is seen cooking in the stall from time to time.

After the match, many Chinese fans left messages on his social media, thanking him with comments such as: "Singapore's best nasi lemak," "Prosperity is on the way," and "I've been eating this nasi lemak since I was a kid, it's really good."

Singapore goalkeeper unlikely hero as he saves the day for China
Jimu News

After the game, people queue for food at the stall run by Hassan Sunny and his family.

Singapore goalkeeper unlikely hero as he saves the day for China

Goalkeeper Hassan Sunny poses for a photo in front of his food stall.

Some fans even made payments to his stall via its QR code. A fan from Shanghai was one of those who expressed his excitement about China's qualification by tipping Sunny's nasi lemak stall.

Singapore goalkeeper unlikely hero as he saves the day for China

Football fans in China made payments by scanning Sunny's QR payment code to express their gratitude.

One Chinese fan who traveled to South Korea to watch the game was initially dejected by the loss, but then uplifted by Sunny's heroic efforts. "At that time, everyone was a bit deflated, thinking how hard it was for China to qualify with just a draw. Unexpectedly, Sunny's brilliant performance helped China advance, and I immediately transferred money as a token of gratitude."

There was such a fuss online that Sunny replied with a short clip saying: "Xiexie (thanks), China." The clip went viral and was flooded with comments from grateful Chinese fans.

Excited Chinese fans even flocked to Singapore Tourism Board's Weibo account to express their thanks.

"Thank you! I wanna travel to Singapore," read a comment.

In Singapore, news of Sunny's outstanding performance spread quickly among the local Chinese community. A Chongqing native surnamed Chen working in Singapore, told Shangyou News that many people suggested organizing a group to dine at his stall, though it had to be done in batches due to the numbers.

The draw for the third stage of the World Cup Asian Qualifiers takes place on June 27, with 18 teams competing for a place in the finals.

China's only World Cup appearance was in 2002, when the tournament was co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.

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