Albirex, Balestier win big at 2017 S.League Awards

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Albirex Niigata (S) and Balestier Khalsa were the big winners on Monday evening as the S.League handed out its end-of-season awards for 2017.

As expected, Albirex were rewarded for a dominant campaign which saw them win all four trophies Singapore football has to offer for the second year running as they went home with a quartet of accolades.

As the mastermind of the White Swans’ clean sweep, Kazuaki Yoshinaga was named Coach of the Year, while midfielder Kento Nagasaki was a deserving Player of the Year after netting 17 goals in all competition as a deep-lying playmaker, which has seen him garner interest from Thailand’s Thai Honda Ladkrabang.

Striker Tsubasa Sano was awarded the Top Scorer Award for his haul of 26 league goals, which saw him net seven in the final two games of the season to finish one ahead of Home United’s Stipe Plazibat, who also missed out on the Player of the Year gong.

And, while they may have won the S.League, Singapore Cup, League Cup and Community Shield in style, boasting the competition’s best attacking and defensive record, Albirex also did it by the book as they picked up the Fair Play Award.

Despite their third-from-bottom finish in the league, Balestier Khalsa also had plenty to smile about on Monday with Hazzuwan Halim and Huzaifah Aziz winning Young Player of the Year and Goal of the Year respectively.

By his own admission, Hazzuwan’s triumph came as a real surprise as he saw off stern competition from Home and Singapore starlet Irfan Fandi, Garena Young Lions playmaker Hami Syahin and Albirex centre-back Yasutaka Yanagi.

Despite being a midfielder by trade, the 23-year-old was deployed in attack out of necessity this year and rewarded coach Marko Kraljevic’s faith in him by ending the campaign as the Tigers’ top scorer with eight goals to his name in all competition.

Meanwhile, while there were three Albirex players in the running to win Goal of the Year, it proved impossible to beat Huzaifah’s entry against Young Lions, which saw him trap a clearance on his thigh and unleash a spectacular dipping volley from all of 25 yards without the ball ever touching the ground.

Photo credit: S.League