Server tastes double as Japan clean up
Smiling Uzbek Server Djeparov swiped his second Asian Player of the Year prize at a glittering ceremony on Wednesday as Japan cleaned up with a staggering nine awards.
Top-rated attacking midfielder Djeparov, 29, sporting a crushed velvet tuxedo with a mullet-style haircut, was crowned Asia's best for the second time in three years at the swish bash in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
FIFA chief Sepp Blatter was guest of honour at the televised event, just months after the downfall of disgraced Asian soccer chief Mohammed bin Hammam following his ill-fated tilt at the world body's presidency.
Djeparov's sole competition for the top player award was Iranian defender Hadi Aghily under a controversial rule which says only those present at the awards show can win, and which generally rules out Asia's Europe-based players.
Fellow nominees Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund, CSKA Moscow's Keisuke Honda and South Korea's Koo Ja-Cheol and Yeom Ki-Hun were all tied up with club commitments.
"This is my second time I receive this honour," beamed Djeparov, who kissed the gleaming silver trophy and laughed "Cheers!" in Russian.
"It's a great pleasure for me -- this is very important for me and also very important for the Uzbekistan people," he told the audience of hundreds of dignitaries.
And it was a bravura night for Japan as they dominated the annual Asian Football Confederation (AFC) awards on the back of their Asian Cup win and women's World Cup triumph.
Aya Miyama was women's player of the year, Japan's men's and women's teams were both named as the best national sides, and Japan was honoured as the best member association.
Japan also won best men's coach through Norio Sasaki and top women's coach through Takako Tezuka.
Qatar's Al Sadd were club of the year after their AFC Champions League triumph, while Japan's Nagoya Ocean were the best futsal team. Japan also had the best women's referee and men's youth player, Hideki Ishige.
Malaysia's Sultan of Pahang, Haji Ahmad Shah, received the Diamond of Asia lifetime achievement award for his eight-year stewardship of the growing regional body until 2002.
Djeparov got the nod after he helped FC Seoul to the South Korean double and also shone in Uzbekistan's run to the Asian Cup semi-final. He joined Saudi outfit Al Shabab in July and has also played for Pakhtakor and Bunyodkor.
The 2008 winner had earlier defended the controversial "no show, no win" rule which has led to a number of unexpected recipients of Asia's top football award.
"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 Tuesday.
An AFC official suggested this week that the body would review the policy, which has attracted much criticism and was described as "unfair" by its former secretary-general, Peter Velappan.
Qatar's bin Hammam is currently banned from football activities after FIFA found him guilty of vote-buying during his campaign to unseat Blatter. He is appealing the ruling at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
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