Singapore national team footballer Safuwan Baharudin has been named the Straits Times Athlete of the Year for 2013.
In a ceremony at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel on Friday, the centre-back received his award from Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.
The soft-spoken Safuwan is the first male winner of the annual award, which is sponsored by isotonic drinks maker 100PLUS.
The other nominees of the sixth edition of the award are national record-breaking sprinter Dipna Lim-Prasad, billiards world champion Peter Gilchrist and swimming star Joseph Schooling.
Safuwan, 22, was in consistently good form throughout last year as his timely defensive tackles prevented many goals and impressed ST's panel of eight judges, which include ST sports editor Marc Lim, Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president Low Teo Ping, national gymnast Lim Heem Wei, ex-national netballer Jean Ng and former Singapore badminton star Ronald Susilo.
But the centre-back also impressed at the other end of the pitch, scoring crucial goals for the LionsXII, including the crucial equaliser against Johor Darul Takzim in a 1-1 draw at Jalan Besar Stadium that effectively sealed a first Malaysian league title since 1994.
In December, Safuwan was an integral member of the national Under-23s that won a bronze medal in the SEA Games in Myanmar.
Mr Lim said: "All four nominees are winners in their own right and the judging panel had a tough time debating why one outstanding athlete stood out from the other. In the end, the amazing consistency that Safuwan showed match after match, tournament after tournament, made him a worthy winner.
"He helped make Singapore football part of the Singapore sporting conversation again. The buzz he and his teammates created with their brand of football made Jalan Besar the place the be on a Saturday night. Football fever was back and it was contagious.
"It is always hard to single out an individual in a team sport. But Safuwan's assured performances at both ends of the field, for club and country, is why his accomplishments shine just that much brighter than his peers."
The award, presented annually by The Straits Times, the English flagship daily of Singapore Press Holdings, honours the athlete whose individual and collective triumphs and achievements lifted the Singapore sports scene over the past year.
The previous winners are swimmers Tao Li (2008) and Quah Ting Wen (2009), the national women's table tennis team (2010), shuttler Fu Mingtian (2011) and Paralympic equestrian rider Laurentia Tan (2012).