BANGKOK (Reuters) - Omar Khrbin became the first player from Syria to be crowned Asia’s Player of the Year on Wednesday when the Al Hilal striker was presented with the Asian Football Confederation’s most prestigious individual award.
The 23-year-old claimed the title ahead of last year’s winner, Omar Abdulrahman of the United Arab Emirates, and China’s Wu Lei, who missed out for the second year in a row.
Khrbin has had an impressive season, scoring 10 times in the Asian Champions League to finish as the tournament’s top scorer while also playing a major role as his war-torn nation narrowly missed out on qualifying for their first-ever World Cup.
“We play and fight to bring happiness to our people, this is our main target,” said Khrbin.
“We have determination when we play football, but this is stronger when we have people who are very hungry for happiness and joy.
“From here I would like to promise Syria fans we will bring happiness and joy for them at the Asian Cup finals next year because our people deserve to be happy.”
The award was some consolation after Al Hilal finished as runners-up to Japan’s Urawa Red Diamonds in the Asian Champions League final last weekend, while Syria’s World Cup hopes were ended by Australia in a playoff.
Australia’s Samantha Kerr took the women’s award to make up for the disappointment of not being nominated for the global award by the game’s governing body, FIFA, earlier in the year.
Kerr, who plays club football for Perth Glory in Australia and Sky Blue in the United States, finished ahead of Japan’s Saki Kumagai and Sung Hyang-sim of North Korea.
“A lot of Australians have previously won the award, so I’m very humbled to win not only because the Australians have done well but also because it’s a great award and I’m very excited,” said Kerr.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min won the International Player of the Year title, which is presented to players from the confederation who play outside the continent, for the second time in three years.
Japan took both of the coaching awards, with Takafumi Hori claiming the men’s award after guiding Urawa to their first Asian Champions League title in a decade, while Japan national team coach Takakura Asako took the women’s award.
Reporting by Michael Church in Bangkok, Editing by Christian Radnedge