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