Influential Japan midfielder Aya Miyama and Australia utility Caitlin Foord have been rewarded for sparkling performances at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ by being crowned AFC Women’s Player of the Year and AFC Youth Player of the Year respectively.
Miyama, the 26-year-old playmaker, who came third in the 2008 running, became the third Japanese to clinch the award following in the footsteps of Homare Sawa (2004 and 2008) and Natsuko Hara (2005).
"Winning this award is a big surprise for me, and I would like to thank all those were involved with me during this wonderful year of football," said the Okayama Yunogo Belle player. “My gratitude goes to the Japanese national football team, my club, coaches, fellow players with whom I play and the staff members.
"We had a very good year, but next year is also a crucial year with the team already having qualified for the 2012 London Olympics. If we stick together as a team and spend lots of time playing with quality opponents, we have a really good chance to win the gold medal. If you play like a team with lots of spirit and vigour, success could be around the corner, just as it was with us at the FIFA Women's World Cup last summer."
If we stick together as a team and spend lots of time playing with quality opponents, we have a really good chance to win the gold medal.
The dynamic Foord burst onto the international scene earlier this year at 16, scoring just ten minutes into her international debut against New Zealand in May. Selection for Germany 2011 followed and the Sydney FC starlet shone at fullback in a successful dual against Brazil superstar Marta in the opening group match, before further appearances against Norway and Sweden. Foord was awarded the Hyundai Best Young Player at Germany 2011.
"It's fantastic to be one of the nominees first but ultimately winning the award makes me very happy," said Foord, who only turned 17 two weeks ago. "Women's football in Australia is going up and it will continue to grow more in years to come."
The glamour night on the AFC calendar saw world champions Japan predictably take the bulk of the prizes home from Kuala Lumpur.
AFC Coach of the Year was awarded to Nadeshiko mentor Norio Sasaki, while AFC Coach of the Year (Women) was claimed by Japan national youth team assistant coach Takako Tezuka.
The east Asian nation claimed the AFC Member Association of the Year award and AFC National Team of the Year, while AFC Referee of the Year (Women) went to Japan’s Sachiko Yamagishi. Australia’s Sarah Ho was named AFC Assistant Referee of the Year.