Football: Albirex Niigata sweep three of the major S-League awards at inaugural FAS Nite

From left: Hazzuwan Halim, Huzaifah Aziz, Tsubasa Sano, Kento Nagasaki and Kazuaki Yoshinaga after receiving their trophies at the inaugural Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Nite at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre yesterday.
From left: Hazzuwan Halim, Huzaifah Aziz, Tsubasa Sano, Kento Nagasaki and Kazuaki Yoshinaga after receiving their trophies at the inaugural Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Nite at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre yesterday.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Albirex playmaker named S-League Player of the Year but could join Thai League 1 club

On and off the pitch, Albirex Niigata have swept almost everything before them in Singapore football.

After completing a quadruple sweep of trophies this season, the Japanese club took three of the top five individual awards at the inaugural Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Nite yesterday evening.

The White Swans took the Player of the Year (Kento Nagasaki), Coach of the Year (Kazuaki Yoshinaga) and Top Scorer (Tsubasa Sano) accolades as they dominated the night at Marina Bay Sands.

Former FAS president Ho Peng Kee, who helmed the national body from 2004-2009, joined current supremo Lim Kia Tong on stage to present the Player of the Year trophy to Nagasaki.

The 27-year-old Japanese, who sparkled this year with his accurate dead balls, cited hard work and determination for winning Singapore football's top individual honour after four years in the S-League.

He said: "This has given me a lot of confidence. Winning the Player of the Year award was a target of mine this year.

"Last year, I realised I wasn't fast enough, but I decided to work hard and do my best for the team."

  • FAS NITE 2017 WINNERS


    PLAYER OF THE YEAR

    Kento Nagasaki (Albirex Niigata)

    COACH OF THE YEAR

    Kazuaki Yoshinaga (Albirex Niigata)

    YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR

    Hazzuwan Halim (Balestier Khalsa)

    TOP SCORER

    Tsubasa Sano (Albirex Niigata)

    GOAL OF THE YEAR 

    Huzaifah Aziz (Balestier Khalsa)

    FAIR PLAY AWARD

    Albirex Niigata

    REFEREE OF THE YEAR

    Sukhbir Singh

    ASSISTANT REFEREE OF THE YEAR

    Edwin Lee

The classy playmaker, however, remained tight-lipped on his future as he is linked with a move to a Thai League 1 club.

"Every player is always thinking of playing at a higher level.

"I am going to work even harder in the future.

"But I have not decided which team I will play for next season yet."

Like Nagasaki, Albirex's Coach of the Year Yoshinaga is unsure where his future lies.

But if he stays, the tactician hopes that "coaches, players staff and media all need to work hard to improve the level of the S-League".

Although Balestier Khalsa finished seventh in the nine-team league, the Tigers produced the other two individual winners for Goal of the Year (Huzaifah Aziz's dipping volley against the Garena Young Lions) and Young Player of the Year (forward Hazzuwan Halim).

Balestier forward Hazzuwan was a dark horse for the Young Player award as he faced tough competition from Home United's Irfan Fandi, the Garena Young Lions' Singapore international Hami Syahin and Albirex's Yasutaka Yanagi.

"I'm really surprised and this is really unexpected," said 23-year-old Hazzuwan, who has committed to another season with the Tigers.

"(Coach) Marko (Kraljevic) really believed in me. After every training (session), he made me stay behind for more training with the attackers.

"I hope to be in the national team in the future. It's a dream of mine."

The S-League's annual awards, refreshed this year to hand out awards to the second-tiered National Football League (NFL) and women's football, is "to reflect our desire to recognise all those involved with Singapore football", said FAS president Lim.

Moklas Marof, the secretary of Kembangan United, was honoured with a Special Recognition Award for his long service to the amateur scene.

The 63-year-old retiree, who has been involved for more than three decades in various roles with clubs like Kaki Bukit, Jalan Sultan FC and Marine Crescent, said: "It is good to see the NFL competition improving this year.

"There is no money or glamour in the NFL, but my passion is too great. I simply love football and that's why I keep getting involved."

On a night when the FAS celebrated its 125th anniversary, former Lions such as Samad Allapitchay, Lim Teng Sai and Robert Sim, and all members of the celebrated 1977 Malaysia Cup-winning team, were honoured.

Former national coach Raddy Avramovic, who now coaches Kuwaiti club Al Tadhamon, also sent a special video to convey his affection for the local game.

Despite the party atmosphere last night, there are still question marks looming over the local scene as the FAS awaits to find out the quantum of funding from the Tote Board.

With the 2017 season drawing to a close, players and officials are united in their hope that 2018 will see a turnaround for the struggling local game.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2017, with the headline 'Nagasaki lands top award'. Print Edition | Subscribe