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Iran garners AFC awards for 2003

Iran's national winger Mahdavikia, Iran's futsal team, and judge Massoud Moradi were elected the AFC Player, Team, and Referee of the Year for 2003 at Imperial Sheraton Hotel in the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur Wednesday, IRNA reported.

The Hamburg SV right winger, Mahdavikia, became the third player of Iran to claim the honor since its inauguration in 1994.

Japanese sensation Yoshito Okubo won the Young Player of the Year award, Rim Kum-suk of DPR Korea was named the Women's Player of the Year.

Following a stellar season with the German club, Mahdavikia has been crowned the continent's best footballer of 2003, emulating the feats of compatriots Khodadad Azizi and Ali Daei, who captured the prestigious award in 1996 and 1999 respectively, said the official site of the confederation.

While technically the honor is bestowed for achievements in a calendar year, such was Mahdavikia's consistency throughout the 2003/03 Bundesliga campaign that there were few quibbles with the decision. Hamburg fans overwhelmingly voted Mahdavikia as their Player of the Year after he helped the side finish fourth in the league to qualify for the UEFA Cup.

Although the 26-year-old registered just two goals during the league campaign, his ability to create chances for others was -- and still is -- the defending quality of the popular Iranian, borne out by the fact that he topped the 2002/03 Bundesliga chart for goal assists.

On the international front, Mahdavikia, also made an invaluable contribution, setting up two goals for Iran as it defeated New Zealand 3-0 to claim the AFC/OFC Challenge Cup in October. The former Persepolis star is no stranger to Asian football's Hall of Fame, having won the AFC Youth Player of the Year and Goal of the Year awards in 1997.

Iran, the five-times undisputed Asian futsal champion, was also named the AFC Team of the Year.

The football-mad country was again in the limelight as international judge Massoud Moradi, best in the second Iran Pro League in 2002, was announced the AFC Referee of the Year for 2003.

Reigning West Asian Football Federation champion Iraq won the AFC National Team of the Year and also received an AFC Fairplay Award as the team coached by German Bernd overcame the problems of its war-shattered nation to top its qualifying group for the Asian Cup.

... Payvand News - 12/10/03 ... --

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