Nasser Al Shamrani’s focus is on award, not suspension

Al Hilal striker stays mum about ban for spitting at opponent.

Saudi Arabia Al Hilal striker Nassir Al Shamrani raises the trophy after winning the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Player of the Year during the AFC's 60th Anniversary and Annual Awards held in Manila on November 30, 2014. NOEL CELIS / AFP
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MANILA // Moments after his anointment as the continent’s footballer of the year, Nasser Al Shamrani, the Al Hilal striker, refused to comment on his impending Asian Champions League ban for head butting and spitting at an opponent.

The Saudi Arabia forward, crowned by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) as the top player of 2014 at an award ceremony on Sunday, is reportedly soon to be handed an eight-match suspension in response to his actions during last month’s Champions League final second leg against Western Sydney Wanderers.

In the match in Riyadh, Al Shamrani aimed a head butt at Matthew Spiranovic and then spat at the Australian defender after the final whistle.

Western Sydney won the tie 1-0 on aggregate.

Al Shamrani has claimed he was provoked by Spiranovic and described his reaction as “normal”.

When pressed on the likely ban in the immediate aftermath of collecting his award, Al Shamrani said he preferred to concentrate on his latest achievement.

“I’m thinking only of today, not anything else,” he said. “It’s not the first time for me to be the best player wherever I go. I’m living for today and proud of myself to be the best player in Asia.

“Let me enjoy my time as the best player.

“I’ve never heard anything about being banned. Anything else please talk to the Asian Football Confederation.”

While the AFC could not provide an official comment – any suspension is decided by an independent disciplinary committee and then has to be passed to the member association – it is believed Al Shamrani will be excluded solely from Champions League matches.

He would then be free to participate in domestic competitions in Saudi Arabia and for his country in next month’s Asian Cup in Australia.

According to AFC regulations, a player found guilty of spitting at an opponent faces a six-match ban at least, while an act of violent conduct, such as head butting, carries a two-match suspension.

On taking the award ahead of Ismail Ahmed, the Al Ain defender, and Khalfan Ibrahim, the Qatari winger at Al Sadd, Al Shamrani said: “I cannot really describe how much I’m happy and proud of this.

“A player plays not for himself, but for a team, so I say to my club and my national team it’s not only me winning this prize, it’s all of us.

“They are the ones who got me to this position.

“Being the winner of the prize doesn’t affect the sadness of losing the Champions League. We feel we played better, but were unlucky – that’s why we lost.

“This is not a personal thing, this is a team. I wanted both prizes for them.”

Ahmed, a defensive fixture in Al Ain’s run to the Champions League semi-final, congratulated Al Shamrani on securing the title and said he was happy to have been recognised as among the continent’s three finest players.

“It makes me want to work harder to become better and maybe come back one day as the best player in Asia,” he said. “I feel very honoured to be here and I am very grateful to my Al Ain teammates for helping me arrive at this point. It is a proud moment.”

Ahmed also paid tribute to club colleague Asamoah Gyan, who was voted the AFC’s foreign player of the year. The Ghanaian finished as top scorer in this year’s Champions League, with 12 goals.

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