Korea sweeps up at the AFC awards
The national football team was named team of the year, Huh Jung-moo became the first Korean squad manager in six years to win AFC manager of the year and Pohang Steelers were named top club.
Ki Sung-yeung bagged the young player of the year honor.
Huh led Korea to a first place finish in its qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup, Korea’s seventh consecutive World Cup, and managed the team to a 27-game unbeaten streak - 14 wins and 13 draws.
Overall, the national team nearly went unbeaten for the entire year until it lost its first match in 22 months when Serbia prevailed by a single goal in London on Nov. 18.
“I believe the players who followed the coaching staff and the support of football fans were the reasons for our seventh consecutive qualification for the World Cup. I want to thank the players, fans and KFA officials for their hard work this year,” Huh said in a statement through the Korean Football Association. “I will accept the manager of the year award with the mind-set of putting up good results in South Africa next year. I ask for a lot of support from fans so we can have a miraculous World Cup.”
Huh was nominated for the coach of the year award along with North Korean manager Kim Jung-hoon. The defensive-minded manager led North Korea to its first World Cup since the 1966 World Cup in England.
Takeshi Okada, who led Japan to its fourth consecutive World Cup qualification, was also nominated. Huh becomes the fifth overall and first Korean manager to win the award since Cha Kyung-bok of Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma, who won the award in 2003 after leading his club to three consecutive K-League titles. Other recipients include Guus Hiddink in 2002 and Cha Bum-kun in 1997.
Huh, who briefly managed the national team in 1995, took over the reigns of the national squad in December 2007. He was successful in incorporating promising young players such as Lee Chung-yong, Ki Sung-yeung and Lee Keun-ho into the starting lineup.
Ki Sung-yeung, the youngest member on the national team, became the third Korean player to receive the AFC young player of the year award. Previous winners include Park Chu-young in 2004 and Lee Chun-soo in 2002.
The midfielder has shown a lot of poise and good vision and passing, scoring four goals in 17 appearances since Huh put him in the side in September 2008.
Ki was one of the main cogs in the FC Seoul club this year. The team finished third overall in the K-League regular season and reached the quarterfinals of the AFC Champions League.
Ki is set to join Celtic in the Scottish Premier League in January 2010.
AFC Champions League winners Pohang Steelers were named club of the year. The Sergio Farias-managed team has presented football fans with an entertaining brand of football, winning crucial games and scoring goals.
Having finished second overall in K-League regular season, Pohang will play the winner of Seongnam Ilhwa Chunma and Chunnam Dragons in K-League Championship semifinals on Sunday. In addition, South Korea’s Hong Eun-ah received the AFC referee award for women and Uzbekistan’s Ravshan Irmatov won his second consecutive referee award for men.
AFC player of the year award went to Yasuhito Endo of Japan, who has made 80 appearances for the Japanese national team. “We hope to make it to the semifinals [at the World Cup]. It is a tough mission. But we will do our best,” the 29-year-old midfielder told the press.
Mana Iwabuchi won the women’s young player of the year for second year running.
By Jason Kim [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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