Football: Sasikumar, Duric among winners of inaugural Pentagon Awards

SINGAPORE - The inaugural Pentagon Awards, a footballing award ceremony with a twist, got off to a glamorous start at the Fullerton Bay Hotel on Saturday (April 9) evening.

Conceived by Tampines chairman Krishna Ramachandra, the awards aim to be a departure from traditional football accolades, as they celebrate men and women in South-east Asia who have contributed to the sport - both on and off the pitch.

The high-profile guests included Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck, Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim and Johor Princess Tunku Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah.

Supported by the Asian Football Confederation, the Pentagon Awards' uniqueness was evident in the night's five main award winners, which included two former players, a club chairman, a referee and a budding footballer.

Tunku Ismail, chairman of Malaysian Super League club Johor Darul Takzim, won the Leaders' Leader award for his contributions to Malaysian football.

Under his leadership, JDT won the Asian Football Confederation Cup - Asia's second-tier club competition - last year.

In his acceptance speech, he said: "Once you do everything right, put the right energy and passion in it, everything is possible. This is only the beginning for JDT."

Former national defender R. Sasikumar, managing director of sports marketing agency Red Card Group, walked away with the Entrepreneurial Footballer Award.

He said: "What football taught me is that you're only as good as your last game, so I always tell myself I'm only as good as my last business deal.

"Local footballers have a bad reputation for not taking care of themselves after retiring and I hope to be an inspiration."

Garena Young Lions midfielder Hami Syahin, 17, won the Up-and-Coming Footballer Award, while local referee Muhammad Taqi Aljaafari was given the Inspiring Referee accolade.

Former national striker Aleksandar Duric, currently heading a football academy set up by ActiveSG, was given the Health and Fitness award, which honours a professional footballer who is able to maintain the same demanding health and fitness regimen after his or her career.

Full list of winners -

The Leaders' Leader Award: Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim

The Entrepreneurial Footballer Award: R. Sasikumar

The Inspiring Referee Award: Muhammad Taqi Aljaafari

The Up-and-Coming Footballer Award: Hami Syahin

The Health and Fitness Award: Aleksandar Duric