Najib receives Diamond of Asia award

KUALA LUMPUR: Australia’s Sasa Ognenovski was crowned Asian player of the year, while his South Korean side Seongnam Ilhwa won club of the year at a glittering ceremony here yesterday.

In a big night for Australia at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) annual awards, Kathryn Gill was also named women’s player of the year and Australia claimed the women’s national team award.

Japan also collected a number of titles including national team of the year, while Takeshi Okada won the coach of the year at the event.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was the recipient of the AFC Diamond of Asia award for his services to the sport.

North Korea’s Jong Il-gwan bagged the men’s young player of the year award while Yeo Min-ji of South Korea was named women’s best young player.

Ognenovski, a 31-year-old defender, was the frontrunner for the prize having led Seongnam Ilhwa to win the AFC Champions League this month in Japan.

Earlier Ognenovski told AFP that a controversial eligibility rule had somewhat tarnished the award.

The AFC decrees that only players who attend its gala awards ceremony in Kuala Lumpur are eligible for the title, a policy it has defended as necessary for putting on a good show and enhancing the sport’s profile in the region.

The attendance rule this year eliminated from contention three top Asian stars - Japan’s Keisuke Honda who plays for CSKA Moscow, South Korean Park Ji-sung who plays for Manchester United and Australian Tim Cahill of Everton.

The trio were on the original list of 15 nominated players unveiled by the AFC earlier this month, but are all busy playing for their clubs and had to send their apologies. – AFP

AFC roll of honour

Best player: Sasa Ognenovski (Aus)

Best national team: Japan

Best club: Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (Kor)

Diamond of Asia special award: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak (Mas)

Best coach: Takeshi Okada (Jpn)

Best youth player: Jong Il-gwan (Prk)

Best match commissioner: Abdul Ghafoor Hameed (Mdv)

Best referee: Ravshan Irmatov (Uzb)

Best assistant referee: Toru Sagara (Jpn)

Best fairplay: Japan

Best association: Japan

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