Nasser Al-Shamrani: Asian Player of the Year.
It’s a title that just doesn’t sit right after the Al Hilal striker’s disgraceful actions following his side’s AFC Champions League final to Western Sydney Wanderers last month.
While Wanderers keeper Ante Covic was awarded the AFC Champions League MVP, there can be little doubt that Al-Shamrani was one of, if not the best players of the ACL. His 10 goals were second only to Al Ain’s Asamoah Gyan and he played a leading role in Al Hilal making the final. And while it wouldn’t have factored in the AFC’s decision making, his form at the recent Gulf Cup proved that he is one of the best players in the region.
But while his talent cannot be questioned, his sportsmanship certainly can be.
During the ACL Final he had a number of harmless run-ins with Covic which added to the drama and suspense of the match. Yet he clearly crossed the line late in the second leg when he headbutted Wanderers and Socceroos defender Matthew Spiranovic. It got worse after the final whistle blew, with Al-Shamrani clearly spitting directly at Spiranovic and sprinting towards celebrating Wanderers players to cause an ugly melee involving players and staff from both sides.
It was disgraceful behaviour in any language and cast a dark cloud over the ACL Final. The AFC obviously agree, because according to various media reports they’ve slapped him with an eight-match ACL ban for his petulant outburst.
So how then can a player on the receiving end of such a severe punishment, who has disgraced and shamed himself, his club, and Asian football, be named Asia’s best player?
The criteria for Asian Player of the Year are a closely guarded secret, and requests to the AFC for an explanation of said criteria went unanswered. What we do know is that it is objective and it is based on performances in AFC competitions for club and country.
Yet surely there has to be a disciplinary provision as simple as being ruled ineligible if a player has been sanctioned by the AFC’s Disciplinary Committee.
The Disciplinary Committee met on Friday to hear the Al-Shamrani case, amongst others. A guilty finding, and really how could it be anything else despite his laughable claims that his was a “normal reaction” to being provoked, should have automatically ruled him out, making it a race in two between UAE’s Ismail Ahmed and Qatar’s Khalfan Ibrahim.
But in the world of Asian football, nothing is that simple.
The decision, or the announcement of the decision, of that Disciplinary Committee hearing, if the rumour mill is to be believed, has been delayed until at least Monday if not later in the week.
Nasser already has his Player of the Year award though. Politics rules the day, and West Asia has all the power in the Asian football world.
At a time when the continent is still fighting for respect and credibility, especially following our disastrous performances at the World Cup, it’s outrageous that a player who has brought so much shame to Asian football is the Asian Player of the Year.