Salem Al Dawsari said being named Asian Player of the Year would represent a “great achievement for Saudi Arabia”, with the continental award set to be announced on Tuesday.
The Al Hilal and Saudi Arabia star, considered the country’s standout player, is one of three vying for the 2022 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) men’s prize at the awards ceremony in Doha.
Al Dawsari, 32, is up against Qatar striker Almoez Ali and Australia forward Mathew Leckie. He is the first Saudi player to be nominated for men’s Asian footballer of the year since Nasser Al Shamrani in 2014. Al Shamrani, his former teammate at Al Hilal, went on to become the fifth Saudi footballer to capture the award.
Speaking at Monday’s pre-event press conference in the Qatari capital, Al Dawsari said: “Thankfully, I was nominated for this. I want to thank all my colleagues at Al Hilal and the national team because they have helped me reach this achievement and go this far.
“It will be a great achievement for Saudi Arabia if I win. A player has to be passionate and ambitious. If I win tomorrow, my ambition will not stop at that, and it will just give me more of a boost to keep performing for my club and national team.”
Al Dawsari has enjoyed a fine past couple of seasons with the Riyadh club – the award straddles two campaigns – playing an integral role in Al Hilal’s 2021/22 Saudi Pro League success and then last season’s King’s Cup success.
The winger also scored four goals as Hilal finished runners-up in the 2022 Asian Champions League, while he rose to worldwide acclaim in last year’s World Cup when he struck the winner in Saudi’s shock 2-1 victory against eventual champions Argentina.
Asked on Monday to pinpoint his most memorable moment of 2022/23, Al Dawsari said: “It was such a happy feeling and a historic moment to score against Argentina.
“But, my ambition will never be to win just one game; a player should always work harder and harder [to achieve more].”
Sitting alongside Ali, Al Dawsari added: “Undoubtedly, we are here as brothers, and what I can say is also congratulations to Ali for such an achievement. I hope one of us will be the winner.”
Qatar international Ali, meanwhile, may not have shone at the home World Cup at the conclusion of last year – the hosts lost all three matches to exit at the group stage – but he did help Al Duhail sweep all four domestic titles in the 2022/23 season.
“After the World Cup, when we were back to playing with our club, it was the best because I was able to bring the experience from the national team to my club,” Ali said. “Thankfully, it was very successful.”
On being nominated, Ali said: “Of course, it is such a beautiful feeling to be among the top three players on the continent. That goes to show we have been doing a good job, together with my teammates at the club and Qatari national team.
“It has always been one of my childhood dreams to be among the top Asian players and, to be honest, I used to look up to Salem and see his good performances – so this nomination is very motivational for me.”
The awards return for the first time in four years. Samantha Kerr, Zhang Linyan and Saki Kumagai compete for AFC Women’s Player of the Year.