S-League Awards Night 2016

Football: Success & succession amid historic vote

Albirex Niigata striker Atsushi Kawata is visibly moved when receiving the Player of the Year Award from former Lions captain Samad Allapitchay.
Albirex Niigata striker Atsushi Kawata is visibly moved when receiving the Player of the Year Award from former Lions captain Samad Allapitchay.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Past stars hand awards to current ones but future will be decided after upcoming EOGM

While Singapore football finds itself at a crossroads with an imminent change of its leadership through an election, the mood of uncertainty was lifted yesterday at the S-League awards night, as the sport's past re-emerged to hand out the prizes to the present-day stars.

Nostalgia was indeed in the air as video clips of V. Sundramoorthy's bicycle-kick goal against Brunei was replayed to loud cheers.

And it was fitting that the national caretaker coach presented the Goal of the Year accolade to Albirex Niigata defender Tomoki Menda for his volley from an acute angle against the Garena Young Lions in August.

Similarly, former Lions captain Samad Allapitchay (Player of the Year award to Albirex's Atsushi Kawata), Terry Pathmanathan (Young Player of the Year award to Hougang United's M. Anumanthan) and former Singapore coach Jita Singh (Coach of the Year to Albirex's Naoki Naruo), all gave the evening at the Marina Bay Sands a sepia tone finish.

The happy scenes provided a respite ahead of next Monday's extraordinary general meeting (EOGM) at the Football Association of Singapore. The association's 46 affiliates will be voting to pass the revised constitution, which will pave the way to elect a new president and council.

 

The biggest winners of the night were Albirex Niigata. The Japanese team were honoured for a stellar year in which they became the first team in the S-League's 20-year history to win a quadruple of titles.

ONLY THE BEGINNING

I'm honoured to achieve this but this is just a first step for me towards more achievements in my career. I'm just hungry to go, work on more things to get better.

M. ANUMANTHAN, Hougang midfielder, on his Young Player of the Year Award.

Besides winning their first S-League crown, they also clinched the Community Shield, League Cup and Singapore Cup to accomplish the feat.

After receiving the award from Samad, Kawata said: "This is the happiest day of my life.

"I have won a few titles before previously, but this is the first time I have won so many big titles in the same year."

Albirex tactician Naruo felt that winning the Coach of the Year award is a recognition of the club's achievements this year.

He said: "Because of winning the four trophies, I can win this award tonight. This was the result of other people thinking that I am the best coach and I will continue to try to be the best coach."

But it did not all go the White Swans' way. Anumanthan earned the nod for the Young Player of the Year after impressing with a string of battling performances in midfield.

  • Main winners

    GREAT EASTERN PLAYER OF THE YEAR

    Atsushi Kawata (Albirex Niigata) 

    YEO'S YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR

    M. Anumanthan (Hougang)

    RHB COACH OF THE YEAR 

    Naoki Naruo (Albirex)

    RHB TOP SCORER AWARD

    Rafael Ramazotti (Brunei DPMM) 

    MITRE GOAL OF THE YEAR 

    Tomoki Menda (Albirex) 

    FBT REFEREE OF THE YEAR

    Sukhbir Singh

    POLAR STORY OF THE YEAR

    Chua Siang Yee (Pennant looking to start over in S'pore)

The 22-year-old, who will be leaving with the national team for a five-day training camp in Qatar this morning, attributed his improvement this year to his team-mates, especially his closest friend and team-mate Iqbal Hussain, 23.

Anumanthan said: "There're so many talented young players out there, and it's them who have set the standards and constantly push me to become a better player.

"I'm honoured to achieve this but this is just a first step for me towards more achievements in my career. I'm just hungry to go, work on more things to get better."

And it is clear, the winners of the night, buoyed by the vote of confidence from their predecessors, want to continue blazing a trail in the future.

But with the EOGM looming, it remains to be seen how that future will be written.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Success & succession amid historic vote'. Print Edition | Subscribe