Iraqi stars Nashat Akram and Younis Mahmoud, and Saudi Arabian striker Yasser Al Qahtani are the final three players in contention for the coveted AFC Player of the Year award.
Inspired by the goals of tournament MVP Younis and the creative guile of the skilful Nashat, Iraq cast aside the troubles in their homeland to set up the AFC Asian Cup 2007™ final against three-time champions Saudi Arabia, led from the front by Al Qahtani, who finished the tournament’s joint-top scorer along with Younis and Naohiro Takahara of Japan.
Younis’ 71st minute goal was all that separated the two sides as Iraq emerged continental champions for the first time after a thrilling final at the Gelora Bung Karno in Jakarta.
Not surprisingly, both Iraq and Saudi Arabia are nominated for the AFC National Team of the Year award. The third candidate is Korea Republic, who edged defending AFC Asian Cup champions Japan 6-5 on penalties in the third place play-off.
AFC Coach of the Year, reserved exclusively for Asians who have made an impact at AFC or FIFA competitions with Asian teams, will be contested by Amir Ghalenoiee and Rauf Inileev, respective coaches of Iran and Uzbekistan at the AFC Asian Cup 2007™, and Kim Hak-bum.
Kim guided Korean side Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma to the semi-finals of this year’s AFC Champions League, where they lost out in a penalty shootout to eventual champions Urawa Reds.
Seongnam and Asian Champions Urawa Red Diamonds have both been short listed for the AFC Club Team of the Year award as have AFC Champions League runners-up Sepahan and Al Wahda of the UAE, the fourth semi-finalist in this year’s continental club showcase.
The three countries contesting the AFC Association of the Year award are China and AFC Asian Cup 2007™ co-hosts Vietnam and Japan, Japan also joins Jordan and Korea Republic as the candidates for the AFC Fair Play Association of the Year.
Japan also have nominees in four of the remaining five categories.
Yochiro Kakitani, who shone in Japan’s FIFA U-17 World Cup campaign, is nominated for the AFC Youth Player of the Year for a second time and he will face competition from his Cerezo Osaka team-mate and Japan U-20 star Yasuhito Morishima and DPR Korea’s Kim Kum-il.
Japan’s national futsal team are candidates for the AFC Futsal Team of the Year award where they are up against continental champions Iran and Uzbekistan, who finished third in Osaka. Kenichiro Kogure, who helped Japan to their runners-up place, is vying for the AFC Futsal Player of the Year along with the Iranian duo of Mohamadreza Heidarian and Vahid Shamsaee.
Completing Japan’s contingent of award nominations is match official Toru Sagara, who will contest the AFC Assistant Referee of the Year award with Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Hamed Al Ghamdi and Saleh Mohamed Abdulla Hassan Al Marzouqi of the UAE.
Meanwhile, Kuwait’s Saad Kamel Al Fadhli, Mohammed Salleh Subkhiddin from Malaysia and Australian Mark Shield, who officiated the AFC Asian Cup 2007™ final, are the three nominees for the AFC Referee of the Year.
The AFC Annual Awards Ceremony will take place at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney on November 28, commencing at 2000hrs (Sydney).
THE NOMINEES (in alphabetical order)
AFC YOUTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. KAKITANI Yoichiro (Japan)
2. KIM Kum-il (DPR Korea)
3. MORISHIMA Yasuhito (Japan)
AFC FUTSAL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. HEIDARIAN Mohamadreza (Iran)
2. KOGURE Kenichiro (Japan)
3. SHAMSAEE Vahid (Iran)
AFC ASSISTANT REFREE OF THE YEAR
1. AL GHAMDI Mohammed Hamad S (Saudi Arabia)
2. AL MARZOUQI Saleh Mohamed Abdulla Hassan (UAE)
3. SAGARA Toru (Japan)
AFC REFEREE OF THE YEAR
1. AL FADHLI Saad Kamel (Saudi Arabia)
2. MOHD Saleh Subkhiddin (Malaysia)
3. SHIELD Mark Alexander (Australia)
AFC COACH OF THE YEAR
1. GHALENOIEE Amir (Iran)
2. INLEEV Rauf (Uzbekistan)
3. KIM Hak-Bum (Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma; Korea Republic)
AFC FAIR PLAY ASSOCIATION OF THE YEAR
3. Korea Republic
AFC ASSOCIATION OF THE YEAR
1. China PR
AFC FUTSAL TEAM OF THE YEAR
1. IR Iran
AFC CLUB TEAM OF THE YEAR
1. Al Wahda (UAE)
2. Sepahan (Iran)
3. Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma (Korea Republic)
4. Urawa Reds (Japan)
AFC NATIONAL TEAM OF THE YEAR
2. Korea Republic
3. Saudi Arabia
AFC PLAYER OF THE YEAR
1. AKRAM Nashat (Iraq)
2. AL QAHTANI Yasser (Saudi Arabia)
3. MAHMOUD Younis (Iraq)