Just One More Goal

by Ben Ayuko

{image by SMCP}


China went into the final day of the World Cup 2026 qualifying campaign needing a single point to guarantee safe passage ahead of Thailand into the next round of games. Now as much as that may seem like a very doable task, they were coming up against South Korea, the group leaders and one of the toughest teams in international football across the world, let alone in Asia. It was either that or pray for a miracle from an out of form Singapore team who only had only managed to secure a single point across all 5 group games. China was in the driving seat, and they needed to put in a professional performance to calm the supporters’ nerves and grab that last qualification spot firmly with both hands.

So of course, they only went and lost 1-0 to South Korea.

And Thailand was just about to kick off against Singapore, the worst team in the group (by far). Should they win the game with a 3-goal deficit (which was very doable against a team that had conceded more goals than every other team in the group combined and then some) then there was nothing China could do to rebuttal. It would’ve been all over. And Thailand knew it. And China knew it. And Singapore knew it. Everybody knew it. And maybe that was it. Maybe that’s what drew out such a performance. The atmosphere was crying out for somebody to step up and claim the moment. But nobody told Singapore’s number 1 that it wasn’t meant to be HIS moment.

40yr old Hassan Sunny, claiming his 115th cap for his country, just rained the mother of all typhoons onto Thailand’s parade. They did not see him coming. Making a whopping 11 saves across the 90 minutes to keep Thailand at bay, Sunny all but assured China’s safe progress into the next round. I mean sure, Thailand won the game comfortably at 3-1, but they needed one more goal. One more goal to get them over the line. One more goal to push them closer to their dream.

Of course, if China had scored 1 more goal in their game, then it wouldn’t even matter. Heck, I probably wouldn’t even know who Hassan Sunny is. But as things stand, not only do I know of his glory, but he is also a Bonafide legend in China.

Chinese citizens can’t get enough of him at the moment. Whether it’s making him a trending topic on social celebrating his heroics, flocking at the restaurant he owns in his home country, or sending him money online just to say thank you to him.

An excerpt from The Straits times reads:

The 40-year-old told The Straits Times after a training session at the Jurong East Stadium on June 14: “This experience is a whole level of different, definitely unforgettable.

“Of course, it’s crazy to get so much support from foreign fans, some of them even flew in from China yesterday just to visit my stall.

Lions goalkeeper Hassan Sunny to donate money from China football fans to charity | The Straits Times

Hassan Sunny walked out on the pitch on Tuesday 11th, June just like he always did when ready to represent his country; ready to give what he had and hope for the best. Who would have thought that, at 40yrs old- near retirement age for a goalkeeper, that day would produce probably one of, if not, THE biggest moment of his entire footballing career?


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