Iranian forward Sardar Azmoun bested Keisuke Honda and eight other footballers from the continent for the honour of being ‘Asia’s greatest player’ in the Russian Premier League (RPL).
This week, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) nominated 10 players from Iran, South Korea, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Japan for the award. The winner was the player that received the highest number of votes cast by fans online.
Aside from Honda and Azmoun, the other nominees are Mirdjalal Kasimov (Ubekistan), Kim Dong-jin (South Korea), Odil Ahmedov (Uzbekistan), Mukhsin Mukhamadiev (Tajikistan), Vitaliy Denisov (Uzbekistan), Dmitri Khomukha (Turkmenistan), Vladimir Maminov (Uzbekistan) and Eldor Shomurodov (Uzbekistan)
The governing body of Asian football noted many of the top Asian players have played for various teams in the RPL.
“One of the most geographically diverse leagues in football, few domestic competitions outside of the AFC have welcomed so much Asian talent as the Russian Premier League. With several players joining the league from East, West and especially Central Asia, the competition has been a league of interest for Asian fans since its inception in 1992,” the AFC said on its website.
“It has played host to star players from some of the continent’s biggest football nations, with League, Cup and European silverware all won by Asian players,” it added.
The results released by the AFC yesterday showed that Azmoun got 42 percent of the votes, far ahead of Shomurodov and Kasimov, who obtained 23 and 22 percent respectively.
Azmoun became a sensation when he scored 12 goals in 16 matches while playing for Zenit during the second half of the 2018-2019 season.
Ahmedov was fourth with seven percent of the votes, while Honda came in fifth with two percent. Mukhamadiev, Denisov and Maminov received one percent each, while Khomukha and Kim did not receive any votes.
Honda, who is arguably one of the best players ever produced by Japan, played for four years in the Russian League with CSKA Moscow between 2009 and 2013. He played a key role in the CSKA Moscow win over Sevilla to reach the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League in 2009.
“He had some great performances in Russia. I am really proud of him as a Japanese national, congratulations,” Kento Fujihara, the playing coach of Soltilo Angkor FC said upon learning that Honda was among the nominees for the award.
Honda is currently playing for Botafogo FC in Brazil. Concurrently, he is also the general manager of the Cambodian national football team. He is also the owner of the Siem Reap-based Soltilo Angkor FC, one of the teams playing in the Metfone Cambodian League.
Early this year, Honda was also nominated for the ‘greatest Asian player’ in the FIFA World Cup, and placed second behind Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Biranvand .