BANGKOK: Syrian striker Omar Khrbin was awarded the Asian Football Confederation’s 2017 Player of the Year Wednesday, after starring both for his club and for his war-ravaged country whose attempt to make the World Cup captured the hearts of the sporting world.
Khrbin was selected ahead of last year’s winner Omar Abdulrahman — Asia’s hottest rising star — and Wu Lei, the skilful Chinese winger. The AFC individual award, at a glittering ceremony in Bangkok, goes some way to compensate for the collective disappointment over the weekend when his Al Hilal side narrowly lost 1-2 on aggregate to Japan’s Uwara Red Diamonds in the AFC Champions League final.
Australia’s Samantha Kerr claimed the women’s Player of the Year title in Bangkok, after tearing through defences for US-based Sky Blue FC and her national side.
The Syrian national football team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after losing last month in agonising fashion by a single goal over two legs to Australia.
Yet is was an inspiring sporting journey for the team — and their top scorer — against the backdrop of Syria’s grinding six-year civil war.
Khrbin showed a knack for scoring key goals, both in his country’s qualification campaign and in Al Hilal’s run to the AFC Champions League Final.
He plundered five over two legs as th Saudi giants swept by Iran’s Persepolis to make the final against Japans’ Urawa Red Diamonds.
Khrbin then scored the equaliser for Al Hilal in the home leg which finished 1-1, before they went down by a single goal in Japan. In receiving the award, the 23-year-old thanked God and members of the national team.
“We apologise to all the fans because we did not achieve the greatest results but we promise them to keep trying our best,” he said.
The Matilda’s Sam Kerr has enjoyed a prolific season in front of goal, scoring freely for her US side and the national team — often marking her efforts with a signature back-flip celebration.
Thanking teammates and supporters at the awards night she said “it’s been a bit of a crazy year.”
It was a Japanese double for the Coach of the Year award with Takafumi Hori of AFC Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds scooping the men’s accolade, while Asako Takakura, the coach of Japan’s women’s national team took the women’s version.
The AFC award for the best international player — an Asian based outside the region — went to South Korean Son Heung-min, who has become a fans’ favourite at Tottenham Hotspur. — AFP