Japan’s Kumagai sets stage as AFC Awards nominees gather for Annual Awards

By Paul Nicholson in Hong Kong

December 1 – Japan’s Saki Kumagai, a star player in the Olympique Lyonnais triple winning team and a key member of her national side, said that she welcomed the proposal for a women’s Club World Cup saying that it would be a good challenge for Europe’s clubs but “also for clubs in Asia as well.”

Kumagai was speaking in Hong Kong where she is nominated in the final three for the AFC Women’s Player of the Year. The 29 year old midfielder has played 110 times for Japan and for the past six seasons has been a key member of OL’s all-conquering club side. For Japan she was a member of the World Cup winning team in 2011 and the World Cup team that finished runners-up in 2015, as well as being a key player in the country’s 2019 campaign.

Despite the success of the past, 2019 has still been a special year for Kumagai. “It was the first time we won the Champions League, League and League Cup. I am proud to win three trophies (with OL). In the summer we played at the Women’s World Cup and unfortunately didn’t get past the round of 16, but I am proud of our team participation…we had a young team and I tried to give my experience to our young girls.”

Kumagai is up against Li Ying (Guangdong Huijan and China) and Ashlata Devi Loitongbam (Sethu FC and India) for the AFC’s top women’s award. “I have been nominated a few times for awards,” she said. “It is the first time I have been here as a nominee and very proud to be here but I am not 100% sure I will get the award.”

Asked how she saw the game developing in Asia she said that “the level of women’s football in Asia is growing fast, especially if you look at the results of the world youth tournaments where you see Asian teams reaching the last four and growing the status of our football. It shows how far our football has come.”

The proposed expansion of the international club she also sees as a positive development. The AFC is piloting its first Women’s club competition, while FIFA has mooted a Women’s club World Cup. “I play in Europe in France and in the Champions League we play foreign teams. FIFA’s new competition would be a good thing for clubs”.

Men’s nominees mix legends with outrageous talent

The nominees for the AFC men’s player of the year are an interesting mix of established high level performers  and outrageous new talent making its mark.

Iran and Persepolis goalkeeper Ali Reza Berinvand has been the leading goalkeeper in Asia since he made his international debut in 2014. The 6ft 4in stopper who has played more than 40 games for his country, is up against Urawa Red Diamonds and Japan centreback Tomoaki Makino, a key player in Japan’s run to the final of the 2019 Asian Cup in the UAE.

That was a run that was broken by Qatar’s young, free scoring, fast paced and rapidly emerging team preparing for 2022 World Cup hosting. It is a team of precocious young talent with left winger Akram Hassan Afif being standout. While the Asian Cup saw Qatar’s star forward Al-Moez Ali (not making to the final three nominations) score a record nine tournament goals, it was Afif tournament record of 10 assists in a single tournament that powered the attacking play The Aspire graduate youngster was directly involved in 11 of Qatar’s 19 goals the 2019 tournament.

The AFC winners will be unveiled at a star-studded awards night at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on Monday night.

Full list of nominees for AFC Annual Awards 2019

AFC Player of the Year (Men)

Ali Reza Safarbeiranvand (Persepolis F.C. and IRN)

Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Red Diamonds and JPN)

Akram Hassan Afif (Al Saad and QAT)

AFC Player of the Year (Women)

Li Ying (Guangdong Huijun FC and CHN)

Ashalata Devi Loitongbam (Sethu FC and IND)

Saki Kumagai (Olympique Lyonnais and JPN)

AFC Asian International Player of the Year

Sardar Azmoun (IRN)

Makoto Hasebe (JPN)

Son Heung-min (KOR)

AFC Futsal Player of the Year

Mahdi Javid (IRN)

Tomoki Yoshikawa (JPN)

Yushi Sekiguchi (JPN)

AFC Youth Player of the Year (Women)

Karly Roestbakken (AUS)

Wang Linlin (CHN)

Jun Endo (JPN)

AFC Youth Player of the Year (Men)

Hiroki Abe (JPN)

Lee Kang-in (KOR)

Doan Van Hau (VIE)

AFC Coach of the Year (Women)

Katayoun Khosrowyar (IRN)

Asako Takakura (JPN)

Nuengrutai Srathongvian (THA)

AFC Coach of the Year (Men)

Tsuyoshi Otsuki (JPN)

Go Oiwa (JPN)

Chung Jung-yong (KOR)

AFC Member Association of the Year (Inspiring)

Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran

Japan Football Association

Korea Football Association

AFC Member Association of the Year (Developing)

DPR Korea Football Association

The Hong Kong Football Association LTD.

Football Association of Singapore

AFC Member Association of the Year (Aspiring)

Guam Football Association

Mongolian Football Federation

Yemen Football Association

AFC President Recognition Awards for Grassroots Football (Inspiring)

Chinese Football Association

Japan Football Association

Football Association of Malaysia

AFC President Recognition Awards for Grassroots Football (Developing)

The Hong Kong Football Association LTD.

All India Football Federation

Football Association of Singapore

AFC President Recognition Awards for Grassroots Football (Aspiring)

National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam

Guam Football Association

Palestine Football Association

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1591324952labto1591324952ofdlr1591324952owedi1591324952sni@n1591324952osloh1591324952cin.l1591324952uap1591324952


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