Safuwan spurred by Asean Award

Safuwan Baharudin (left) and Assistant Referee of the Year Ronnie Koh with Football Association of Singapore president Lim Kia Tong (centre) at the Asean Football Federation Awards in Hanoi on Friday. The defender is the fifth Singaporean to be chosen amo
Safuwan Baharudin (left) and Assistant Referee of the Year Ronnie Koh with Football Association of Singapore president Lim Kia Tong (centre) at the Asean Football Federation Awards in Hanoi on Friday. The defender is the fifth Singaporean to be chosen among the Asean Best XI. PHOTO: FAS

Lions defender proud to be among Asean's Best XI while Koh wins Assistant Referee gong

Two Singaporeans were feted at the region's top football awards at the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Awards 2019 in Hanoi on Friday night.

Lions defender Safuwan Baharudin was included in the Asean Best XI while match official Ronnie Koh won the Assistant Referee of the Year at the fourth edition of the biennial awards, which is held the year after an AFF championship.

The Best XI comprise players who impressed the coaches from the AFF technical study group during last year's tournament.

Safuwan, who plays for Pahang FA, told The Straits Times that being named among the region's best was one of his "greatest achievements".

The 28-year-old is the fifth Singaporean to be selected for the Best XI after Baihakki Khaizan, Mustafic Fahrudin, Shahril Ishak (all in 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 earn the assistant referee gong after Tang Yew Mun in 2013.

  • AFF'S 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 (Philippines), Syamer Kutty (Malaysia), Sanrawat Dechmitr (Thailand), Riko Simanjuntak (Indonesia)

    STRIKERS Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (Malaysia), Nguyen Quang Hai (Vietnam)

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)."

Lim gave his "heartiest congratulations" to the award-winning 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 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.

"Their success should serve to spur their fellow peers to go on and attain similar honours."

Vietnam, who beat Malaysia 3-2 over two legs to win the AFF tournament, were the Team of the Year while their striker Nguyen Quang Hai won Player of the Year. Pitsamai Sornsai of Thailand was the Women's Player of the Year.

Shahril Ishak was the only Singaporean to win the Player of the Year in 2013, when Raddy Avramovic was also named Coach of the Year and Abdul Malik Abdul Bashir the Referee of the Year. In 2017, Taqi Jahari was voted the best referee.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 10, 2019, with the headline 'Safuwan spurred by Asean Award'. Print Edition | Subscribe