Asia's football body hinted it may scrap its controversial no show, no win rule Tuesday after only two people turned up to claim the prestigious Asian Player of the Year award.
The body will try to make the award "more attractive", an official said, after only Iran's Hadi Aghily and Server Djeparov of Uzbekistan arrived ahead of Wednesday night's ceremony, slashing a six-strong shortlist to two.
Under a much-criticised rule which has eliminated a host of Europe-based stars from Asia's top honour, only players who attend the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) annual awards show are eligible for the trophy.
But an AFC official suggested the policy was under review after shortlisted stars Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda of Japan, Asian Cup top-scorer Koo Ja-Cheol and fellow South Korean Yeom Ki-Hun skipped the event in Kuala Lumpur.
"Unfortunately they are not able to attend the awards ceremony due to their club commitments," he said. "It means that either Djeparov or Hadi will be the winner of the 2011 Player of the Year award."
The official added: "We will definitely look at the criteria to make the AFC award more attractive in the future."
The reigning player of the year is Australia's Sasa Ognenovski, while Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung, ex-Celtic ace Shunsuke Nakamura and Tim Cahill are among many strong candidates to miss out in recent seasons.
This week, Kagawa and Honda's clubs, Borussia Dortmund and CSKA Moscow, are both in European action, Koo's Vfl Wolfsburg play in the Bundesliga on Saturday and Yeom's Suwon Samsung Bluewings are busy in the K-League.
But Djeparov said players needed to "sacrifice" to receive the award, while Aghily commented that attending the ceremony showed respect to both the AFC and fans.
"I took about eight hours' flight to come here but I think we should show more respect to AFC and to the fans. And because of that I did my best to come here and be with everybody," said the Iranian.
Last year, defender Ognenovski was the surprise winner just a week after making his international debut, while Japan's Yasuhito Endo beat Aghily to the title in 2009.
Djeparov won in 2008, the year Park's United last became Europe's club champions, and the 29-year-old Uzbek is back in the running after his displays for Uzbekistan, FC Seoul and his new club, Saudi Arabia's Al Shabab.
"The award is conducted only once a year. It's not only important for players but for the entire AFC. We need to sacrifice. Anyone who wants to win the award, they are supposed to be present at the ceremony," he said.
However, former AFC secretary-general Peter Velappan said it was "unfair" to exclude some of Asia's best players.
"It is unfair to impose the rule. It has to be changed," Velappan told AFP.
"It is totally against the spirit of the award to honour the best player from Asia. If he can't come, then a representative from his association can receive the award."
The popular www.goal.com website called the Asia prize "one of football's curious awards" which "once again looks set to be won by default".