Akram Afif, Saki Kumagai named top Asian footballers

Kumagai (right) led her country to Asian Cup title last year. (Facebook pic/Asian Football Confederation)

HONG KONG: Qatar forward Akram Afif and Japanese World Cup heroine Saki Kumagai were named Asia’s men’s and women’s players of the year at an awards ceremony in Hong Kong on Monday.

Afif, who made a record 10 assists in Qatar’s shock run to the Asian Cup title, beat Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand and Tomoaki Makino of Japan to the Asian Football Confederation honour.

“Very happy to be selected as the Asian Player of the Year. This is a great honour for me,” tweeted Afif, 23, who was not in Hong Kong for the prize-giving.

Kumagai, 29, who scored the winning penalty in Japan’s 2011 Women’s World Cup victory, also helped the Nadeshiko finish runners-up at the 2012 Olympics and 2015 World Cup, and led her country to the Asian Cup title last year.

She has also enjoyed a glittering club career, winning six French league titles and four Champions League trophies with Lyon.

The awards ceremony took place in Hong Kong despite widespread pro-democracy protests that have engulfed the Chinese territory this year.

China’s award for grassroots football was collected by an AFC official.

Japan’s Asako Takakura was women’s coach of the year for a record seventh time, while Chung Jung-yong was the best men’s coach after he led South Korea to the Under-20 World Cup final.

With the top men’s award off-limits to anyone based outside Asia, South Korea’s Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min was named international player of the year.