October 26 – With the countdown towards the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 – to kick-off in January 2024 – now inside 75 days, the region’s football leaders will gather in the country for the AFC’s Annual Awards 2022 at the end of the month.
The event marks a return of the AFC’s awards that haven’t been held since 2019, before the pandemic forced restrictions on football throughout the world’s biggest confederation.
Qatar will welcome more than 40 of the region’s FA presidents to what will be both a celebration of the AFC’s star performers and a foretaste of the football that is to come in January as the 24-team Asian Cup kicks off in the Gulf state.
It is a celebration and statement of football unity and mutual respect at a time when the world is in a delicate geo-political balance.
The awards cover the January 2022 to May 2023 period and showcase the world-class ability of Asian players.
The time covered falls just short of the breakthrough hosting of Women’s World Cup 2023 in the region, but all three women’s nominees were also stars in the Australia/New Zealand event for their countries. It does cover the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022.
The final list of three nominees is headed by Australian women’s football icon Samantha Kerr who plays her club football for Chelsea.
Kerr was the AFC’s Women’s player of the year in 2017 and in 2022 was still at the top of her game, surpassing Tim Cahill to become Australia’s all-time top scorer during the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022 in style by scoring five times in one match to eclipse the previous mark of 50 on her way to the tournament’s Golden Boot.
For Chelsea, Kerr hammered in 30 goals (now more than 90 in total for Chelsea) in the 2022/23 season, driving the London team to their fourth successive Woen’s Super League title.
Kerr faces a challenge from FC Bayern Munich and Japan’s Saki Kumagai who was the last winner of the women’s player of the year in 2019.
The Japanese legend, 32, was a key player in Bayern’s fourth Bundesliga title win.
Able to play in defense or midfield, Kumagai has moved into their top five for most international appearances and captained Japan to the Semi-finals at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022.
The third nominee in the women’s category is Zhang Linyan (Guangzhou Women’s/Wuhan Women’s FC/Grasshopper Club Zurich and CHN) who made her mark at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022 as the youngest squad member of China’s record-extending ninth triumph.
Zhang opened her goal account at international level netting the crucial equaliser against Korea Republic in a thrilling Final that saw the Steel Roses overturn a two-goal deficit to win 3-2.
In her debut European season, the 22-year-old scored eight times and made four assists in both league and cup to help Grasshoppers Zurich finish third in the regular season and reach the Swiss Cup last eight.
Male nominees eye Asian Cup 2023
All three of the men’s final nominees are strikers who will be looking to drive their countries to the Asian Cup title when they return to Qatar in January next year.
Long established as one of Asia’s lading performers, Salem Al Dawsari (Al Hilal SFC and Saudi Arabia) had a stunning 2022 for club and country.
He went wrote his way into his country’s football history with the winning goal in Saudi’s World Cup win over eventual Qatar 2002 champions Argentina. He then went on to equal the legendary Sami Al Jaber’s record of three FIFA World Cup goal, scoring against Mexico.
For Al Hilal he was pivotal role in their 2021/22 Saudi Pro League and 2022/23 King’s Cup triumphs and scored four goals and notched three assists in eight matches in their run to the AFC Champions League 2022 final, where they finished as runners-up.
it was at the FIFA Club World Cup Morocco 2022 that he really caught the world’s attention with two goals and an assist in a 3-2 Semi-final win over Brazil’s Flamengo, as Al Hilal became the first ever ever Saudi club to reach the final.
Mathew Leckie (Melbourne City and Australia) is a strong challenger to Al Dawsari. Leckie made his mark at the Qatar 2022 World Cup when his goal against Denmark sealed a round of 16 berth for the Aussies.
That capped a fine 2022 for the Melbourne native, who had enjoyed his best A-League scoring season by netting nine times for Melbourne City and adding four assists as they took the league title.
The third nominee is Almoez Ali (Al Duhail SC and Qatar) who will be bidding to be the third consecutive winner of the award Qatar following on from Abdelkarim Hassan in 2018 and Akram Afif in 2019.
In the 2022/23 season Ali surpassed the 200-game mark in all competitions for Al Duhail as they won their eight Qatar Stars League title. It sealed a 12th consecutive qualification for the AFC Champions League and a season that saw his club win all four domestic trophies.
Ali became his country’s joint all-time top scorer with his 42nd goal in November 2022 and featured at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 on home soil.
To see the full list of nominations click here.
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