Iranian veteran Ali Karimi Wednesday called for “better timing” for Asia’s annual football awards to encourage the continent’s top stars to attend and be eligible to win.
Karimi, one of three players shortlisted for Asian player of the year, said big names would lift the profile of the awards ceremony, whose next edition will be held in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.
“I hope there would be a better arrangement in the future and the AFC may reconsider better timing to give the opportunity to all Asian players around the world and in Asia to get the chance and come here”
Iran footballer Ali Karimi
“I hope there would be a better arrangement in the future and the AFC may reconsider better timing to give the opportunity to all Asian players around the world and in Asia to get the chance and come here,” Karimi said.
“I’m sure it’s a dream for every player to be nominated and participate in this event,” the 2008 winner added, speaking through a translator at a pre-awards press conference in the Malaysian capital.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has long faced calls to scrap its controversial no-show, no-prize policy where only player of the year nominees who attend the ceremony can win the award.
Karimi’s fellow nominee Lee Keun-Ho of South Korea said he would prefer award winners to be present, although if it was not possible “maybe that can be taken into consideration”.
But China’s Zheng Zhi, who is also shortlisted, said: “The presence of nominees shows respect to the award,” adding that those who played in Europe and elsewhere could use “their private jet or fly back to Asia”.
The AFC has introduced new categories of foreign player of the year, for non-Asians playing in Asia, and Asian international player of the year, for Asians based outside the region, but nominees must be present to collect their award.
Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa, Inter Milan defender Yuto Nagatomo and Fulham goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer were nominated in the international player category, but none of them attended Wednesday’s press conference.
The foreign player of the year nominees are Sepahan striker Bruno Correa, Al Jazira’s Ricardo Oliveira, this year’s AFC Champions League top-scorer, and Assis Silva Coutinho, who plays for AFC Cup-winners Kuwait SC.
Ex-Bayern Munich midfielder Karimi, 34, was nominated for his second Asian player of the year award on the back of influential appearances for Iran and his Champions League performances for Persepolis.
Former Charlton Athletic midfielder Zheng helped Guangzhou Evergrande claim the Chinese league and cup double under coach Marcello Lippi, while Lee was key to Ulsan Hyundai’s unbeaten run to the Champions League title.
The no-show, no-prize rule has resulted in some unlikely Asian players of the year with Uzbek midfielder Server Djeparov winning for the second time last year – with Iran defender Hadi Aghily his sole competitor on the night.
Europe-based players are in the midst of a busy club and international programme in November, when the ceremony is held, and usually opt to skip the journey to Kuala Lumpur.