Qatar star Afif shortlisted for top AFC award
KUALA LUMPUR: Qatar’s charismatic playmaker Akram Afif has made it to the three-man shortlist for the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Male Player of the Year award, the continental football governing body announced.
A driving force behind Qatar’s Asian Cup title victory last year, 22-year-old Afif also helped Al Sadd reach the AFC Champions League semi-finals this season.
“Afif is arguably Asia’s brightest prospect and he burst onto the scene at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 where he produced 10 assists – the most in the tournament’s history,” the AFC said in a statement.
If the Al Sadd star wins the award this time, it will be the second consecutive year that a Qatari player is being honoured with the Player of the Year award. His Al Sadd and Qatar team-mate, Abdelkarim Hassan, won the award last year, becoming only the second Qatari to bag the title after Khalfan Ibrahim, who won the same in 2006.
Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand and Japanese defender Tomoaki Makino are the other competitors in the men’s category for the coveted title which will be presented at the AFC Annual Awards to be held in Hong Kong on December 2.
Makino helped Japan reach their fifth Asian Cup final this year while his form at Urawa Red Diamonds saw them keep six clean sheets on their way to the AFC Champions League final against Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal.
Beiranvand made headliner after saving Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and he repeated the feat against Oman in the AFC Asian Cup to lead Iran to the semi-finals.
He has been an inspirational figure in goal for both club and country but outside the pitch, he remains a strong advocate for social responsibility.
China striker Li Ying, the top scorer in last year’s AFC Women’s Asian Cup, India’s Ashalata Devi Loitongbam and Japan captain Saki Kumagai are the nominees in the women’s category.