In a major honour for Qatar and Qatari club football, Al Sadd defender Abdelkarim Hassan was declared the AFC Player of the Year at the Asian football body’s annual awards gala in Muscat yesterday evening.
Abdelkarim, 25, played a stellar role in Al Sadd’s brilliant campaign in the AFC Champions League in which the club qualified for the semi-finals before being beaten by eventual champions Kashima Antlers.
“The true heroes are my teammates both for club and country. This award is added motivation for us to give our best each time we enter the field. And I must also thank our fans who continue to serve as an inspiration for all of us,” Abdelkarim said after receiving his trophy from AFC President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa.
The 25-year-old admitted even he did not expect to win the award as he was up against Kento Misao and Yuma Suzuki, who were part of the Kashima Antlers team which won the AFC Champions League.
“I hope after winning to get a chance to play in Europe, I have the mentality to play in European leagues,” he said.
Hassan added: “Being nominated with two Japanese players was an honour, and I did not expect to win.”
This is the second time a Qatari footballer has bagged the top AFC award. Former star Qatar striker Khalfan Ibrahim had won the award way back in 2006 as an 18-year-old. Khalfan was a member of Al Sadd’s Champions League winning side in 2011.
“I feel proud to have emulated Khalfan Ibrahim,” said Abdelkarim. “Obviously he is one of Qatar’s greatest football players.”
Meanwhile, China’s Wang Shuang clinched the top accolade in the women’s category.
Wang, who joined her illustrious China PR compatriots Ma Xiaoxu and Bai Jie in winning the award, said: “I would like to thank the AFC for this remarkable award. It really means a lot to win this. I want to thank my country, the Chinese Football Association and my national teammates for putting their faith in me and always encouraging me to dream big.”
AFC President Sheikh Salman said: “We celebrate and applaud all our winners tonight who have work tirelessly to raise the bar each year. Asian football continues to attain world-class achievements, and this is a testament to our players, teams and Member Associations.
“We congratulate them all and all those nominated, and we thank our host the Oman Football Association and the Omani government for staging a truly memorable celebration in this wonderful city of Muscat.”
Kashima Antlers’ Go Oiwa who guided his side to their maiden AFC Champions League title earlier this month was duly rewarded with the 2018 AFC Men’s Coach of the Year award, while AFC Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018 winning coach Asako Takakura confirmed her legendary status in women’s football with her sixth AFC Women’s Coach of the Year award.
Iran’s status as a global force in world futsal was further underlined after Ali Asghar Hasanzadeh, who was part of the IR Iran side which finished third in the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup, landed his fourth AFC Futsal Player of the Year accolade.
Former AFC Acting President Zhang Jilong was bestowed with the Continent’s highest accolade – the AFC Diamond of Asia Award – in recognition for his incredible service and leadership over the last four decades to Chinese and Asian football.
AFC ROLL OF HONOUR
AFC Diamond of Asia: Zhang Jilong (CHI)
AFC President’s Special Recognition Award:
Futoshi Ikeda (JPN)
Wild Boars FC (THA)
AFC Member Association of the Year:
Inspiring: Japan Football Association
Developing: DPR Korea Football Association
Aspiring: Mongolian Football Federation
AFC President Recognition Award for Grassroots Football:
Inspiring Member Association: Chinese Football Association
Developing Member Association: Football Association of Singapore
Aspiring Member Association: Palestine Football Association
AFC Futsal Player of the Year: Ali Asghar Hasanzadeh (IRN)
AFC Coach of the Year:
Women: Asako Takakura (JPN)
Men: Go Oiwa (JPN)
AFC Women’s Player of the Year: Wang Shuang (CHI)
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