Uzbekistan midfielder Server Djeparov has been named the AFC Asian Player of the Year for a second time.
The 29-year-old, who joined Saudi giants Al Shabab from South Korean outfit FC Seoul midway through this year, beat off competition from Iran centre-back Hadi Aghily after the remaining four nominees – namely Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa, Koo Ja-Cheol and Yeom Ki-Hun – were made inilegible due to their failure to attend today’s Kuala Lumpur ceremony, which counted on the presence of FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter.
Djeparov, who won the same prize in 2008, played a fundamental role in Uzbekistan’s personal best fourth-placed finish at the AFC Asian Cup in January, scoring in the Group A victories over hosts Qatar and Kuwait and turning in a man-of-the-match performance in the 2-1 reverse of Jordan in the quarter-finals.
He has also helped Vadim Abramov’s team storm into the last round of Asian Zone qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ - the Uzbeks will progress as Group C winners ahead of continental champions Japan, who they held 1-1 in Tashkent thanks to Djeparov’s goal, if they get a result in Toyota in their final third-phase match in February.
Furthermore, the Soviet Union-born performer has inspired Al Shabab, who finished 18 points shy of eventual winners Al Hilal in the 2010/11 Saudi Professional League, make a fine start to this season. Michel Preud'homme’s men are currently level on points with Al Ittifaq at the summit, having won seven and drawn two of their opening nine outings.
"This is my second time I receive this honour,” Djeparov said with the trophy Australia’s Sasa Ognenovski claimed last year in his hands. “It's a great pleasure for me. It’s very important for me and also for the Uzbek people.”
Miyama saluted as continental queen
Aya Miyama, a key figure in Japan’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Germany 2011™ conquest, was crowned the AFC Women’s Player of the Year for the first time.
The 26-year-old playmaker, who came third in the 2008 running, became the third Japanese to clinch the award following 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."
Japan were predictably named both the Men’s and Women’s National Team of the Year.