AFC Annual Awards 2018: Asia’s best to be named today

The stage is set for a glittering night of celebration on Wednesday as Asia’s finest football stars gather in Muscat for the highly-anticipated AFC Annual Awards Muscat 2018 at the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre (OCEC).

H H Sayyid Shihab bin Tariq al Said, Advisor to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, will preside over the ceremony, which begins at 7pm. Also present at the awards ceremony will be Gianni Infantino, the FIFA chief, along with other top representatives from Asian football.

On the eve of the event, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president, Sheikh Salman al Khalifa, said, “The AFC brings the stars of Asian football together for a celebration of their outstanding performances in a season that again has promoted the ever-improving standards of our game across the continent."

“Everyone who has been nominated for an award – whether it be a member association, a coach or a player – provides inspiration for the next generation in their field and leaves a legacy of excellence and achievement.

“And there is no better time to mark another successful year in Asia than now as we are just a few weeks away from the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 – which will be the biggest and best Asian Cup ever held."

Qatar’s Hassan in fray for best player

Qatar and Al Sadd’s Abdelkarim Hassan  will be competing with Kashima Antlers’ Yuma Suzuki and Kento Misao, who starred in the J-League side’s first-ever AFC Asian Champions League title triumph earlier this month, for the best player in the men’s category.

In the women’s category, Australia’s Samantha Kerr will be looking to clinch her second consecutive award after the Perth Glory forward guided the Matildas to a second-place finish at the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Amman, Jordan in April.

The Australia international is up against China’s Wang Shuang whose four goals helped the Steel Roses finish third at the 2018 Women’s Asian Cup. Japan’s Saki Kumagai completes the world-class line-up .

The event will kick-off with the AFC honouring one of Asian football’s longest-serving leaders, former AFC acting president, Zhang Jilong, with the prestigious Diamond of Asia Award. Sheikh Salman will also present two special recognition Awards – the first to Japan’s Futoshi Ikeda who guided his charges to the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup title in August this year.

Football Association of Thailand President, Somyot Poompanmoung, will also receive the recognition award on behalf of Wild Boars FC, who inspired the world with their resilience and courage after spending nearly 18 days in the Tham Luang cave before being successfully rescued.

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Maya Diab to perform at the extravaganza

Adding to the excitement and star-studded extravaganza, the awards will also feature a special performance by Lebanese pop idol Maya Diab as well as a grand and immersive showpiece on Sinbad, the legendary sailor from ancient Oman. The awards will be hosted by leading TV anchors and sports presenters, John Dykes from the FOX Sports Network and OSN’s Nathalie Mamo.

AFC chief: OFA a perfect host

The AFC chief said, “Finally, I must extend my heartfelt appreciation to our wonderful hosts – the Oman Football Association (OFA) - for the spirit of generosity, unrivalled hospitality and working diligently towards staging a spectacular ceremony – one truly befitting of another remarkable year of progress for Asian football.”

Other AFC nominees are: Futsal Player of the Year: Rafael Henmi (Japan), Ali Asghar Hasanzadeh (Iran), Mahdi Javid (Iran).

Youth Player of the Year (Women): Fuka Nagano (Japan), Moeka Minami (Japan), Saori Takarada (Japan).

Youth Player of the Year (Men): Jun Nishikawa (Japan), Jeon Se-Jin (South Korea), Turki al Ammar (Saudi Arabia).

Coach of the Year (Women): Asako Takakura (Japan), Miyo Okamoto (Japan), Nuengrutai Srathongvian (Thailand).

Coach of the Year (Men):  Basim Hamdan (Iraq), Go Oiwa (Japan), Ravshan Khaydarov (Uzbekistan).

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