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Hassan aims for return to Japan after “unforgettable” playing stint

SINGAPORE – Heavy snowfall may have put the brakes on Hassan Sunny’s stint in Japan, but the “unforgettable” experience with the nation’s third-tier (J3) football side, Gainare Tottori, has left the custodian wanting for more.

SINGAPORE – Heavy snowfall may have put the brakes on Hassan Sunny’s stint in Japan, but the “unforgettable” experience with the nation’s third-tier (J3) football side, Gainare Tottori, has left the custodian wanting for more.

Just last week, the 32-year-old Singaporean goalkeeper received an unexpected invitation from the J3 football club for a training camp in Osaka. The whirlwind trip was arranged by his Japanese agent.

Hassan departed for Japan last Friday before joining Gainare a day later (Saturday, Feb 11) at their base camp in J-Green Sakai. The Home United goalie – who had previously turned out for Thai Premier League side Army United – played about 70min in a friendly against South Korean top-flight club Incheon United this morning, with the match ending in a 3-3 draw.

He was initially scheduled to travel to Tottori with the team on Monday for a second friendly match against fourth-tier side Dezzolla Shimane before returning to Singapore on Wednesday, but that plan has been shelved due to heavy snowfall.

While Hassan’s time with Gainare had been briefer than expected, the 32-year-old – who will return within the next two days to take the S.League’s mandatory 2.4km test on Friday – was still happy to be able to turn out for the Japanese side.

“We drew 3-3, I think that’s a good result,” he told TODAY after the game. “I played from the middle of the second third and the (whole) final third – one third is 45 minutes each – and had a good run-out.

“It was an unforgettable experience: the temperature was around five Degrees Celsius during the game and my toes were freezing (before coming on)!”

He was also encouraged by positive feedback from Gainare’s head coach, as he added: “The coach said ‘nice keeper’, which is their way of saying ‘good game’, (and telling me that I had) good communication with the team.

“I made a few saves and he praised me. It was nice, as they gave me time to speak to the team before the training started and after the game. I feel like I ended the trip well.”

While Gainare are not a top-flight side in the J.League, Hassan was surprised by the standard of play during his short stint there.

“Before I came here, I thought J3 is just a very low division, but the standard of J3 is equivalent to Thai clubs (and maybe) even better than some of the teams in Thailand,” said the former Army United custodian.

“I think the standard is very high, the intensity is crazy, with 90 minutes of pressing, and it’s very high tempo.

“Also, this (J-Green Sakai) is the Japan national team’s training camp base. I think it’s the biggest in Japan and I am just thankful for the opportunity to train at these kind of facilities.

“Although it’s a short trip and people might say it’s a waste of time, the experience I got from these few days (is invaluable).”

He was also impressed with other aspects of the league, in particular the punctuality, professionalism, teamwork and game approach shown by the players. So much so that Hassan is hopeful for a longer stint later this year, as he added: “My agent is fixing something again in June. He said it’s better for me go during summer (due to the better weather.

“I understand June has FIFA international dates, so I am not sure what will happen, but hopefully I can spend one or two weeks (with a club).”

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