Football: Lions star Safuwan Baharudin, assistant referee Ronnie Koh feted as region's best

FAS president Lim Kia Tong (centre) with Safuwan Baharudin (left) and Ronnie Koh at the AFF Awards in Hanoi, on Nov 8, 2019.
FAS president Lim Kia Tong (centre) with Safuwan Baharudin (left) and Ronnie Koh at the AFF Awards in Hanoi, on Nov 8, 2019.PHOTO: FAS

SINGAPORE - Two Singaporeans were feted at the region's top football awards on Friday (Nov 8) night, as Lions defender Safuwan Baharudin and match official Ronnie Koh picked up accolades at the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Awards 2019 in Hanoi.

Safuwan was selected for the Asean Best XI, while Koh won the Assistant Referee of the Year award.

This is the fourth edition of the AFF Awards, which is a biennial affair and held the year following a Suzuki Cup tournament.

The Asean Best XI comprises players who impressed the AFF's technical study group - which consists of coaches from the region - at the 2018 Suzuki Cup that was held from Nov 8 to Dec 15 last year. Vietnam emerged champions after beating Malaysia 3-2 over two legs.

Safuwan told The Straits Times that being named among the region's best ranked was one of his "greatest achievements" in football.

The 28-year-old is the fifth Singaporean to be selected for the Asean Best XI, following in the footsteps of Baihakki Khaizan, Mustafic Fahrudin, Shahril Ishak (all 2013) and Hariss Harun (2015 and 2017).

"This has to go down as one of the best moments of my career, and I will take it as motivation to continue doing well and prove to myself that I can compete with the best in the region," said Safuwan.

Koh, 40, is the second official to win the Assistant Referee of the Year award, after Tang Yew Mun in 2013.

Koh said he was "immensely proud" to be on stage alongside Football Association of Singapore (FAS) president Lim Kia Tong and Safuwan. He added: "I would also like to dedicate this award to (the FAS) Referees' Department, instructors and committee who worked tirelessly behind the scenes, plus Mr Lim and FAS general secretary Mr Yazeen Buhari, who have been strongly supportive of the (referee's group)."

He also thanked his wife, family and friends.

Lim gave his "heartiest congratulations" to the award-winning Singapore duo. "Safuwan is a consummate professional both on and off the field and is deserving of this award that recognises him as one of Asean's elite players," he said.

"Ronnie's consistent performances in making correct and decisive calls in matches was what earned him the Singapore Premier League Assistant Referee of the Year Award in 2018, hence it is not a surprise that he has earned plaudits on the regional level.

"I am proud of both of their achievements and hope that they continue to maintain this level of excellence. The success they have accomplished should serve to spur their fellow peers to go on and attain similar honours."

Previous match officials recognised at the AFF Awards were Abdul Malik Abdul Bashir (2013) and Taqi Jahari (2017), who were named Referee of the Year. Shahril Ishak was previously named the 2013 Player of the Year and Raddy Avramovic won Coach of the Year in the same year.

Asean Football Federation Awards 2019

Men's Player of the Year: Nguyen Quang Hai (Vietnam)

Women's Player of the Year: Pitsamai Sornsai (Thailand)

Men's Coach of the Year: Park Hang Seo (Vietnam)

Women's Coach of the Year: Nuengrutai Srathongvian (Thailand)

Referee of the Year (Men): Sivakorn Pu-Udom (Thailand)

Referee of the Year (Women): Katherine Margaret Jacewicz (Australia)

Assistant Referee of the Year (Men): Ronnie Koh (Singapore)

Assistant Referee of the Year (Women): SupawanHinthong (Thailand)

Asean Best XI

Goalkeeper: Dang Van Lam (Vietnam)

Defenders: Syahmi Safari (Malaysia), Que Ngoc Hai (Vietnam), Safuwan Baharudin (Singapore), Korrakot Wiriya-Udomsiri (Thailand)

Midfielders: Stephan Schrock (Philipines), Syamer Kutty (Malaysia), Sanrawat Dechmitr (Thailand), Riko Simanjuntak (Indonesia)

Strikers: Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Malaysia), Nguyen Quang Hai (Vietnam)