|Photo: Muhammad Yusuf (FAS)|
And it was an occasion that saw accolades go out all around, as players, media and even sponsors walked away satisfied with what they had enjoyed at the end of the event, which ran smoothly for a little over two hours.
Unlike the case in previous years, the annual marquee event to celebrate the finest achievements of the fraternity was held in a school-setting for the first time – with the ceremony held in the spacious ITE College East auditorium and most ably hosted by ESPN presenter Colette Wong.
And it was a mixture of experienced faces and new men earning honours for the 13 awards that were presented for the night.
In another change from past years, the awards, which used to take the form of towering trophies, took on a new look this year, bearing a carved crystal form shaped like the S.League logo.
Each award, produced by La Belle Collection Pte Ltd, weighs 1.7kg, with a length of 35cm and a height of 4.8cm.
Prior to the ceremonies, representatives from all the S.League member clubs, sponsors, fans and friends of the league bore witness to the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding between the Football Association and the Institute of Technical Education.
The new Memorandum of Understanding marks a new era of partnership between the two parties, which will aim to promote football at ITE level and attract more budding school stars into building happy and successful careers in the game.
It was then the turn of sponsors to receive awards of appreciation for their contributions to the local game, as each and every major supporter was honoured.
Then came the main event, which kicked off with the Tiger Beer Goal of the Year award, with SAFFC midfielder Shukor Zailan the proud recipient.
Shukor’s award-winning strike came from a league encounter against Woodlands Wellington in September – a blistering 30-yard full volley off a half-cleared cross, which was simply artistic in its trajectory as it sailed over hapless Rams custodian Ahmadulhaq Che Omar.
That goal set the stage for a 2-1 win for the Warriors, which snapped a three-match losing run in the league.
It was then time for members of the media to receive their recognition, as online media platforms made a significant breakthrough by claiming both awards on offer.
20-year-old Nicholas Neo of FootballOPOD.com picked up the Story of the Year prize ahead of more established faces in the mainstream media, as his story on Hougang United defender Syaqir Sulaiman’s quest to balance football and his NTU undergraduate course earned the winning nod.
Zeng Liwei of Goal.com Singapore then picked up the Singapore Pools Picture of the Year award, which was won by The New Paper’s Benjamin Seetor in 2011.
Zeng’s entry beat off competition by The New Paper photographer Gavin Foo, Cheng Jing Hean of FootballOPOD.com and BP Chua of Axrosstheline.com.
In the refereeing categories, two men at opposite ends of their careers garnered the honours.
Young Eugene Chan picked up the Waga Assistant Referee of the Year award, while the experienced Abdul Malik Bashir picked up the Great Eastern Referee of the Year award.
44-year-old Malik, who has refereed in a number of high-profile tournaments in Asia over the years, including the first leg of the AFC Champions League final in 2008, is understood to be retiring in 2014.
While on the topic of the men in black, an FAS Special Award was presented to Maniam Murugiah, former vice-chairman of FAS the Referees Commitee and a dedicated man who spent a large part of his life in the officiating side of the game.
Orange was the winning colour for clubs as two associated with that bright shade for the past season emerged as winners for the evening.
S.League second runners-up Albirex Niigata (Singapore) picked up the Singapore Pools Fair Play Award, while unheralded Hougang United picked up the POLAR Fan Club of the Year prize, ahead of 2011 winners SAFFC and the Courts Young Lions.
Things then got personal as the remaining five awards were presented, as the hard work of various individuals were recognised.
Home United forward Frederic Mendy unsurprisingly coasted home to collect the winner of the RHB Top Scorer award with his haul of twenty league goals, which was enough to hold off the challenge of Geylang United’s Jozef Kaplan and 2011 winner Mislav Karoglan, among others.
It was the second time Mendy has won this prize, having first picked it up in 2010 in his maiden S.League season with French outfit Etoile FC.
Harimau Muda winger Wan Zack Haikal then collected two awards on the trot, the YEO’S People’s Choice Award and the YEO’S Young Player of the Year prize.
The 21-year-old pipped a strong field that included teammate Gary Robbat, inheriting the crown that was worn by Tatsuro Inui last year.
For the second successive season, a man coaching a foreign outfit won the MIKASA Coach of the Year award as DPMM FC’s Vjeran Simunic walked up to triumphantly receive the prize that had gone to Albirex coach Koichi Sugiyama last season.
The Croat’s victory was not in dispute despite facing a stiff challenge from Balestier Khalsa’s Dareen Stewart and Kanan Vedhamuthu of Geylang, considering the way he rallied the unfancied Bruneians to a runners-up finish in the league.
Concluding the evening was the award that attracted the most intrigue, as first-time nominees Jamil Ali, Ahmad Latiff Khamarudin and Shahrazen Said joined third-time nominee Mendy and two-time winner Aleksandar Duric in the chase for the Great Eastern Player of the Year award.
In the end, it was Duric who made history by winning his third award, bringing the curtains down on what, for him and so many others, has been a long and hectic season of S.League football.
Great Eastern-YEO’S S.League Awards Night 2012
Roll of Honour
Great Eastern Player of the Year: Aleksandar Duric (Tampines Rovers)
YEO’S Young Player of the Year: Wan Zack Haikal (Harimau Muda)
MIKASA Coach of the Year: Vjeran Simunic (DPMM FC)
RHB Top Scorer: Frederic Mendy (Home United)
Tiger Beer Goal of the Year: Shukor Zailan (36’, SAFFC vs Woodlands Wellington on 13 September)
YEO’S People Choice Award: Wan Zack Haikal (Harimau Muda)
Great Eastern Referee of the Year: Abdul Malik Bashir
Waga Assistant Referee of the Year: Eugene Chan
Singapore Pools Fair Play Award: Albirex Niigata (Singapore)
POLAR Fan Club of the Year: Hougang United
RHB Story of the Year: “A battle between boots and books” by Nicholas Neo (FootballOPOD.com)
Singapore Pools Picture of the Year: “Two Captains – Present and Future” by Zeng Liwei (Goal.com Singapore)
FAS Special Award: Maniam Murugiah (SOURCE)