The Asian Player of the Year will be crowned tonight...or will it?
Ask any football fan who the best Asian player has been over the last 12 months and they’ll likely drop the names of Park Ji-sung, Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa or even Park Chu-young. Some may even throw in a young star like Koo Ja-cheol, who starred at the Asian Cup in January.
Not the Asian Football Confederation though.
The award for Asian Player of the Year will be awarded tonight at a gala ceremony in Kuala Lumpur and is effectively a battle between two – Iran’s Hadi Aghily and Uzbekistan’s Server Djeparov.
Who, I hear a lot of people asking? (Although anyone with a slight interest in Asian football should know the name Server Djeparov)
Of course there are actually six players still in the running for the award, including Honda, Kagawa, and Koo (as well as fellow Korean Yeom Ki-hun), but the AFC’s ridiculous rule that you must attend the awards ceremony to be eligible to actually win the award rules out all but Aghily and Djeparov.
Honda, Kagawa and Koo are all based in Europe and will not be released by their clubs. In fact Kagawa will be facing off against Arsenal in an important UEFA Champions League clash, whilst Yeom is involved in a crucial K-League playoff game for Suwon against Ulsan that same night, ruling him out from making the trip to the Malaysian capital.
It is a rule that has drawn ridicule from all parts of the globe and the award will continue to be devalued until The AFC does something to change the eligibility, or change the date of the awards ceremony.
Midweek in November effectively rules out any European based player. In fact the last European based player to win the award was Iran’s Mehdi Mahdavikia back in 2003, when the right back/winger was playing for Hamburg in Germany. The last European based player to even finish in the top three was back in 2005 when Uzbekistan’s Maksim Shatskikh finished third playing for Ukraine’s Dinamo Kiev.
Since then the award has been dominated by domestically based players, thanks largely to this rule and the system used for determining shortlisted candidates.
The fact that a player like Park Ji-sung, with four EPL titles, two Eredivisie titles, a UEFA Champions League winners medal and numerous FIFA World Cup appearances under his belt, has never won the award beggars belief. He is by far the best Asian player of the last half dozen years, perhaps longer.
Last years winner, Australia’s Sasa Ognenovski highlighted how farcical the criteria is when he admitted that he only attended the awards ceremony because he picked up an injury playing for Seongnam that ruled him out of their K-League playoff game. Had he not sustained the injury, he would not have travelled and would not have won the award.
Either you are the best player or you aren’t, your attendance at the award should not be the determining factor, or even a consideration for that matter
The award is known as the Asian Player of the Year and it should be awarded to the best Asian player for that 12 month period, not the best Asian player that is free and available on a Wednesday night in the middle of November.