Qatar’s Afif, Ja­pan’s Ku­ma­gai named top Asian foot­ballers

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Hong Kong, China - Qatar for­ward Akram Afif and Ja­panese World Cup hero­ine Saki Ku­ma­gai were named Asia's men's and women's play­ers of the year at an awards cer­e­mony in Hong Kong on Mon­day.

Afif, who made a record ten as­sists in Qatar's shock run to the Asian Cup ti­tle, beat Iran goal­keeper Alireza Beiran­vand and To­moaki Makino of Ja­pan to the Asian Foot­ball Con­fed­er­a­tion (AFC) hon­our.

"Very happy to be se­lected as the Asian Player of the Year. This is a great hon­our for me," tweeted Afif, 23, who was not in Hong Kong for the prize-giv­ing.

“I would like to thank the AFC for this award. My thanks also go out to the man­age­ment of the Qatar na­tional team, Al Sadd and As­pire Academy," he said in a recorded mes­sage.

"I can­not for­get my fam­ily, who are my main sup­port­ers. This means a lot to me and I must thank all of you again for this award," added Afif.

The award was col­lected on his be­half by Al Sadd head coach and Span­ish leg­end Xavi as Afif is play­ing in the 2019 Gulf Cup.

Afif was tipped for star­dom since his early years, which saw him play­ing for Span­ish youth teams Sevilla and Vil­lar­real, be­fore be­ing called up to Qatar's team for the 2012 AFC U16

Cham­pi­onship Qual­i­fiers and the 2014 AFC U19 Cham­pi­onship.

Not yet 20, Afif was part of Qatar's 2016 AFC U23 Cham­pi­onship cam­paign that was led by head coach Felix Sanchez and the for­ward was again part of the squad in the fol­low­ing edi­tion, where Qatar fin­ished third.

He has been a per­ma­nent mem­ber of the se­nior na­tional team since 2015.

At club level, Afif played an in­te­gral part as Al Sadd SC won the 2018-19 Qatar Stars League, earn­ing him­self the Best Player Award with 26 goals and 15 as­sists

The 23 year old played a key role in Sadd mak­ing the 2019 AFC Cham­pi­ons League semi­fi­nals, scor­ing five goals be­fore the Doha-based club's run was ended by even­tual win­ners Al Hi­lal of Saudi Ara­bia.

Ku­ma­gai, 29, who scored the win­ning penalty in Ja­pan's 2011 Women's World Cup vic­tory, also helped the Nadeshiko fin­ish run­ner-up at the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Cup, and led her coun­try to the Asian Cup ti­tle last year.

She has also en­joyed a glit­ter­ing club ca­reer, win­ning six French league ti­tles and four Cham­pi­ons League tro­phies with Lyon.

China's award for grass­roots foot­ball was col­lected by an AFC of­fi­cial.

Ja­pan's Asako Takakura was women's coach of the year for a record sev­enth time, while

Chung Jung-yong was the best men's coach af­ter he led South Korea to the U20 World Cup fi­nal.

With the top men's award off-lim­its to any­one based out­side Asia, South Korea's Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur star Son He­ung-min was named in­ter­na­tional player of the year.

All the win­ners at the AFC awards cer­e­mony

Akram Afif of Qatar

Ku­ma­gai (right) with the award

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