Ognenovski crowned AFC player of the year
In a big night for Australia at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) annual awards, Kate Gill was also named women's player of the year and Australia claimed the women's national team award. Japan collected a number of titles including national team of the year, while Takeshi Okada won the coach of the year at the event in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was the recipient of the AFC Diamond of Asia award for his services to the sport. Korea DPR's Jong II-Gwan bagged the men's young player of the year award while Yeo Min-Ji of Korea Republic was named women's young player.
Ognenovski, a 31-year-old defender who has had an outstanding season, was the frontrunner for the prize having led Seongnam Ilhwa to victory in the AFC Champions League this month in Japan.
"I am really honoured and full of joy. It is amazing to win the award," he said, adding that he is keen to step up to the big leagues. "Of course my dream is to play in Europe. If there are offers, I will look at it seriously," he said.
Ognenovski is on a two-year contract with Seongnam Ilhwa, South Korea's most successful club with seven K-League titles. They also reached the AFC Champions League final in 2004 and the semi-finals in 2007. "At the moment I will be staying with them," he said.
The AFC decrees that only players who attend its gala awards ceremony in Kuala Lumpur are eligible for the title, a policy it has defended as necessary for putting on a good show and enhancing the sport's profile in the region.
The attendance rule this year eliminated from contention three top Asian stars - Japan's Keisuke Honda who plays for CSKA Moscow, Korea Republic's Park Ji-Sung who plays for Manchester United, and Australia's Tim Cahill of Everton. The trio were on the original list of 15 nominated players unveiled by the AFC earlier this month, but are all busy playing for their clubs and had to send their apologies.