The crowning of inspirational Uzbek midfielder Server Djeparov as the 2008 AFC Player of the Year capped off a memorable night in Shanghai as the Asian Football Confederation honored the best of the year in Asian football.
Server Djeparov of Uzbekistan delivers a speech with his trophy after winning the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Player of the Year award in Shanghai, east China, Nov. 25, 2008. [Xinhua]
Japan was the biggest winner yesterday, taking top honors in five of the 13 categories although the Kuruvchi/Bunyodkor star emerging as Asia's finest footballer ahead of Yasuhito Endo prevented 2008 AFC Champions League champion Gamba Osaka completing a hat-trick of accolades.
Gamba's victorious ACL campaign saw the J-League side named the 2008 AFC Club Team of the Year while long-serving manager Akira Nishino won the AFC Coach of the Year.
Japan's impressive 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign contributed to the Blue Samurai winning the AFC National Team of the Year, while the JFA was also honored with the AFC Fair Play Association of the Year.
The late Ken Naganuma, who passed away in June at age 77, was posthumously awarded with the prestigious AFC Diamond of Asia, which was presented to his wife Yumiko and daughter Rie.
Naganuma led Japan to the 1968 Olympic bronze medal as head coach while as an administrator credited with the creation of the J-League, considered by many as Asia's finest domestic competition.
Asian Futsal powerhouse Iran was once again named the AFC Futsal Team of the Year while Vahid Shamsaee, top scorer and MVP as the Iranians triumphed in the 2008 AFC Futsal Championship with a 4-0 win over host Thailand, won the AFC Futsal Player of the Year.
Iran's success on the night was not restricted to the indoor game with the Islamic Republic's positive work at various administrative levels earning it the AFC Association of the Year prize.
A stellar performance for the champion United Arab Emirates saw AFC U-19 Championship most valuable player and top scorer Ahmed Khalil win the AFC Youth Player of the Year award while Uzbekistan's Ravshan Irmatov and Tammam Hamdoun of Syria were named the AFC Referee and Assistant Referee of the Year, respectively.
Completing the winners list was Malaysian Kamarudin Sakhari, who was honored with the first-ever AFC Match Commissioner of the Year award.