RECAP: Asian stars shine at the 2014 AFC Annual Awards

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The last few weeks of 2014 are fast approaching and with that came Sunday’s Awards ceremony, distinguishing ’s best of the best in 2014.

In a year that featured appearances of Japan, South Korea, Iran and Australia in the 2014 World Cup and the first AFC Champions League win  by an Australian club, there was plenty to celebrate in the stylish Manila ceremony. Here’s a rundown of the major winners:

AFC Player of the Year: Nassir Al-Shamrani

Al-Hilal’s top striker, who led them to the ACL finals, was head and shoulders above the other nominees on the pitch. But the selection committee controversially ignored his lack of sportsmanship in the second leg of the final after ’ surprise victory.

AFC  Women’s Player of the Year: 

The talented Aussie midfielder, now at Brisbane Roar after spending the year with America’s FC Kansas City in the NWSL, was instrumental in the Matildas’ AFC Women’s Asian Cup runners-up finish with three goals to her name.

AFC Club of the Year: Western Sydney Wanderers

The 2014 AFC Champions League winners marked a historic milestone for A-League clubs in Asia, becoming the first from Australia to raise the trophy after a dramatic 1-0 aggregate win over Saudi Arabia’s Al Hilal.

Asian Coach of the Year: 

With Western Sydney the ACL champions, it’s no surprise that Tony Popovic became the first Australian to be named Coach of the Year. The 41-year-old is himself a former Socceroo with 58 caps to his name.

Asian Women’s Coach of the Year: 

Japan U-17 women’s head coach Asako Takakura (known as Asako Takemoto before her recent marriage) was named the AFC Women’s Coach of the Year for the third straight time. She earned the honor after leading her junior Nadeshiko side to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2014 title in Costa Rica.

Asian National Team of the Year: Palestine

The West Asian territory earned a historical berth in January’s Asian Cup with their improbable 1-0 win against the Azkals of the Philippines in the final edition of the AFC Challenge Cup. Their Group D opener against defending champions Japan will surely be an unforgettable experience.

AFC Male Referee of the Year: Ravshan Irmatov

The Uzbek official set a World Cup record with his ninth game on the pitch following the quarterfinal match between the Netherlands and Costa Rica in Brazil, beating a record previously shared with France’s Joël Quiniou, Mexico’s Benito Archundia, and Uruguay’s Jorge Larrionda. Iranian referee Alireza Faghani, who was the fourth official for the opening match between Brazil and Croatia, was also among the nominees.

AFC Female Referee of the Year: Rita Binti Gani

The 37-year-old Malaysian notably oversaw the AFC Women’s Asian Cup semifinal between South Korea and Australia, among other matches.