Chinese football fans pour money into food stall run by Singapore’s goalkeeper

14 June 2024, 13:04

Singapore's goalkeeper makes a save
China Singapore Goalkeeper. Picture: PA

Hassan Sunny’s performance in a match against Thailand kept China’s World Cup 2026 hopes alive.

Chinese football fans have poured their love – and money – into a Singaporean goalkeeper’s food stall after his performance in a game this week indirectly helped China advance to the third qualifying round for the World Cup in 2026.

Hassan Sunny, a 40-year-old goalkeeper on the national team, became an overnight celebrity on Chinese social media after Singapore’s 3-1 loss to Thailand on Tuesday.

China would have been eliminated if Thailand had won by three goals. Sunny made enough saves to prevent that from happening.

Chinese fans have been lining up and buying out all the food at the stand run by Hassan and his wife in Singapore. Those in China have been sending money using the stall’s QR payment code, which has been widely shared online.

A fan poses for a picture with the goalkeeper's wife
Michael Zhou, 48, from Shanghai takes a selfie with Aidah Rahim, the goalkeeper’s wife (AP)

Football is one of the most popular spectator sports in China, though the men’s national team has struggled despite investments of millions in the sport.

The team has only reached the World Cup once, more than 20 years ago in 2002.

Cao Zichen, who sent 8.88 Singapore dollars (about £5) to the goalie, said he was touched by the image of Hassan as a down-to-earth worker running a small shop, in contrast to the well-paid players in other countries including China.

Eight is a lucky number in China that conveys wishes for wealth and prosperity.

Some fans described Hassan on social media as the best 12th player on the Chinese team, while a few wondered if he would have tax issues with all the money pouring in.

Queues at a food outlet
The performance sparked a rush at the food stall (AP)

Others called it rather sad and embarrassing that this is how China advanced, with one saying it shows the Chinese team would rather rely on others than its own players.

Dapur Hassan, the food stand, quickly jumped to number one in the Singaporean snack and food section on Dianping, a Chinese restaurant review app.

The shop specialises in “nasi lemak”, a popular dish of rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, which it serves with fried chicken.

On the first day, it was sold out by 1.30pm, said Hassan’s wife, Aidah Rahim.

The rush was stressful for the kitchen staff in the back, she said with a smile. “I mean, yeah, my mom, my aunt, who have to keep on frying the chicken over and over again and then the eggs, because the best seller is only nasi lemak.”

A fan raises their arms
Fans have been delighted over China’s progress (AP)

Fans have posted screenshots of their transactions alongside comments such as: “Sincere appreciation from a soccer fan”, or: “Love from China”.

Hassan did not respond to an interview request via email and his Instagram accounts, but he made an announcement in Chinese on the platform on Thursday night urging people to stop sending money and warning that some QR codes masquerading as his shop have been posted.

“Thank you for the support in the last a few days which allows me to fully feel the enthusiasm of Chinese fans,” he wrote.

“I call for rational support, stop transferring money to me through the internet.”

By Press Association

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