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The LionsXII defender picked up the accolade after being judged the best under-23 player at the competition by a panel of experts

Aside from being crowned the regional champions and Shahril Ishak picking up the MVP Award, Singapore has one more accomplisment to add to their conquests at the 2012 AFF Championships.

21-year-old centreback, Safuwan Baharudin, was selected as the best performing under-23 player at the competition by a panel of journalists and experts following the conclusion of the tournament.

Making his debut appearance at a major international competition, the Singapore defender put in a stellar performance partnering Baihakki Khaizan and shutting out far more experienced players, like feared forwards Teerasil Dangda of Thailand and Safee Sali of Malaysia.

Safuwan was presented the trophy at a LionsXII training session on Thursday evening by Goal.com Managing Editor for Asia, Cesare Polenghi.

"I am very happy and proud to receive this award and I'll do my best for LionsXII and the Singapore national team," said the defender upon collecting his token of recognition.

"The jury, composed of Goal.com journalists from 10 different countries, aimed to reward a player who would embody the ideal young southeast Asian footballer," added Polenghi.

"We are delighted to give the award to Safuwan, a rising star in our region. Throughout the tournament he showed a perfect mix of skill and tenacity, helping his team to win the title.

"Best wishes to him and all the young footballers in the region!"

Goal.com Singapore Chief Editor, Bhas Kunju, who was among the panelists who selected Safuwan for the award added that the young defender stood head and shoulders above his regional counterparts and that the award had a significant place in regional football development.

"We were looking for a player who showed good promise, and in Safuwan we not only found that but was already delivering on that promise at a young age," said Kunju.

"There were a few names bandied about before the tournament, but they were all attacking players and none really delivered in the end. A defender needs time and experience to blossom, so for someone like Safuwan who's only 21 to play at the level he does is remarkable.

"In the end we were hoping to recognise the prospects this region held. Grooming young talent is something Asean needs to look seriously into to catch up with the rest of the continent, and with this award we hope we have made a small contribution to nudge the nations in working towards that goal."

Safuwan will next be in action with the LionsXII on March 2 when they take on Felda United in the Malaysian Super League.

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