AFC announces 2006 Asian football award winners

At a glittering Asian Football Confederation awards ceremony in Abu Dhabi, Qatari youth player Khalfan Ibrahim was named Asian Player of the Year while Australia was voted Asian Team of the Year . FIFA President Sepp Blatter received a special “Diamond of Asia” award for his services to Asian football, and praised the region for its contribution to the game.

“I’m touched,” said Blatter. “Our game is about entertainment and passion. It has also become a very big business and you in Asia are responsible for the big business as you have two-thirds of the world’s population. The future is Asia. Diamonds are forever and my friendship for you in Asia is forever,” he said as quoted by AFP.

The AFC tweaked its rules this year, with the player of the year now chosen on the basis of a weighted ranking system which takes into account performances at AFC, and key UEFA and FIFA, tournaments. This does not include domestic leagues, but instead tournaments like Asian Cup qualifiers, AFC Presidents Cup as well as FIFA events like the World Cup. The players were previously chosen by national coaches from the AFC’s 45 federations, and AFC executive committee members. The rules also insist that to win the player must attend the ceremony.

In other awards at the Emirates Palace hotel, China’s Ma Xiaoxu clinched both the Women’s Player of the Year and Youth Player of the Year awards — the first time a female had won that trophy.

Player of the year: Khalfan Ibrahim (Qatar).
Team of the year: Australia.
Women’s team of the year: North Korea U-20.
Women player of the year: Ma Xiaoxu (China).
Diamond of Asia special award: Sepp Blatter.
Youth player of the year: Ma Xiaoxu.
Coach of the year: Choe Kwang-sok (North Korea U-20).
Futsal player of the year: Kenichiro Kogure (Japan).
Referee of the year: Shamsul Maidin (Singapore).
Fairplay of the year: South Korea.
Association of the year: North Korea.
Club of the year: Jeonbuk Motors (South Korea).