Salem Al Dawsari wins AFC Men's Asian Player of the Year award

Al Hilal winger becomes sixth Saudi Arabian to clinch the honour

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Salem Al Dawsari has been named the Asian Men’s Player of the Year, becoming the sixth Saudi Arabian to win the award.

The Al Hilal and Saudi Arabia star, who struck the winning goal in his country’s surprise victory against eventual winners Argentina at last year’s World Cup, collected the Asian Football Confederation’s premier individual men’s prize at an awards ceremony in Doha on Tuesday night.

Al Dawsari, 32, pipped to the award Qatar striker Almoez Ali and Australia forward Mathew Leckie. He is the first Saudi footballer to be crowned Asian footballer of the year since Nasser Al Shamrani in 2014.

Al Dawsari was recognised for a stellar past couple of seasons with Hilal – the award straddles two campaigns – having been key to the Riyadh club’s 2021/22 Saudi Pro League title triumph and then last season’s King’s Cup success.

The winger, a double Asian Champions League winner with his boyhood club, scored four goals as Hilal finished runners-up in the 2022 edition. Al Dawsari was also an integral part of the Saudi side’s second-placed finish at the 2022 Fifa Club World Cup.

He netted two goals and registered an assist in the 3-2 semi-final win against Brazil’s Flamengo – a result that ensured Hilal became the first Saudi side to reach the competition’s final. Hilal lost the showpiece to Real Madrid.

However, Al Dawsari will be remembered more vividly for his decisive goal in last November's World Cup victory against eventual champions Argentina.

In the build up to the ceremony, Al Dawsari spoke of the honour of clinching the Player of the Year award.

“It will be a great achievement for Saudi Arabia if I win,” he said. “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.”

Also on Tuesday, Samantha Kerr was voted Women’s Player of the Year ahead of Zhang Linyan and Saki Kumagai. The Australian, 30, became her country’s all-time top scorer – men or women – during last year’s Women’s Asian Cup, while she was instrumental for Chelsea last season, scoring 30 goals to fire the London club to a fourth straight league title and third successive FA Cup.

Other winners on the night included Napoli and South Korea defender Kim Min-jae, who won Asian International Player of the Year, Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu, who was named Men’s Coach of the Year, and China women’s national team manager Shui Qingxia, who picked up the female equivalent.

The Asian Football Association Annual Awards was last held in 2019, when Qatar’s Akram Afif was named men’s player of the year.

Updated: October 31, 2023, 6:44 PM