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Iran named AFC "Futsal Team of the Year 2002"

Iran has been named the Asian Football Confederation's (AFC) "Futsal Team of the Year 2002," IRNA reported.

In a statement faxed to IRNA on Wednesday, AFC said Iran were runaway winners in the AFC Futsal Team of the Year category, having won their fourth consecutive AFC Futsal Championship since the event began in 1999.

It said the trophy presentation will be held on June 4 in Saitama, Japan.

Japan and Feyenoord midfielder Shinji Ono claimed the AFC "Player of the Year" award for 2002, seeing off compatriot Junichi Inamoto, South Korea's Ahn Jung-hwan and China's Li Tie.

AFC said Ono becomes the third Japanese player after Masami Ihara (1995) and Hidetoshi Nakata (1997 & 1998) to scoop the most prestigious award in Asian football since the awards were inaugurated in 1994.

He also becomes the first person to win both the AFC "Player of the Year" and AFC "Young Player of the Year" titles, having won the latter in 1998.

The 23-year-old helped Feyenoord win the UEFA Cup in 2002, which made him only the second Asian to win a major European title after Korean Cha Bum-kun, who won the same trophy with German clubs Eintracht Frankfurt (1979/80) and Bayer Leverkusen (1987/88).

Meanwhile, Guus Hiddink was named AFC "Coach of the Year" for his historic role in leading South Korea to the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan.

The Dutchman made Korea arguably the fittest team in the World Cup and ensured they peaked at the right moment to beat European giants Spain, Italy, Portugal and Poland on their way to the last four.

Lee Chun-soo, an important member of Hiddink's World Cup squad, pocketed another title for South Korea when he bagged the AFC "Young Player of the Year" title, following in the footsteps of past winners such as Ono and Iran's Mehdi Mahdavikia, now with the German club Hamburg.

South Korea was named AFC "National Team of the Year" for becoming the first Asian country to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Korea also clinched the AFC "Fair Play" award by virtue of their clean play and gentlemanly behavior in the AFC U-20 and U-17 Championships, where their teams won both titles.

Pakhtakor were the AFC Club "Team of the Year" after winning the league and Cup double in Uzbekistan, and battling through six qualifying matches in the 2002 preliminary round of the inaugural AFC Champions League (and eventually reaching the semi-finals).

In the AFC "Referee and Assistant Referee of the Year" category, Japan's Toru Kamikawa and Ali Al Traifi of Saudi Arabia emerged winners in their respective categories.

Both officiated in last year's World Cup.

... Payvand News - 5/28/03 ... --

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