Md Rafi emerged as the Best Indian footballer, while Odafe Onyeka Okolie stole the Best Foreign Footballer’s crown for the second year running during the Lucozade Sport FPAI Indian Football Awards in a glittering ceremony at the Taj Palace here tonight.
The winners in the other categories are as follows: Best Young Player - Jaoquim Abranches, Best Coach- Armando Colaco and Fan's Player Award- Subrata Paul.
While Rafi beat Anthony Pereira, Paul beat Ogba Kalu in the online voting. Odafe got the better of Roberto Mendez Silva, while Armando Colaco was adjudged the best coach ahead of Derek Periera.
However, Anthony Pereira was nominated GSK Fittest Player of the Year by the senior players of the Indian team.
Players from 14 I-league teams voted through secret ballots to choose the winners in all the categories except the Fan’s Player Award that was completed through online voting.
FPAI President Baichung Bhutia said on the occasion, “I am grateful to everyone coming in and supporting Indian football. Let us put our best foot forward to take Indian football to greater heights. I am especially grateful to our Sports Minister Mr Gill and AIFF President Praful Patel for finding time to be a part of this occasion. I am also thankful to all the AFC, Fifa and FiFPro officials for giving this event an international status and recognition.”
An elated Rafi said, “I am thrilled. I never expected this honour. This is also a huge challenge for me, to live up to the expectations of my peers. I hope I will be able to don the Indian colours with great success and serve my country well.”
“I am at a loss for words. I don’t know what to say. I thank the countless football fans for making me the best player of their choice. I feel proud and humbled at this moment,” an emotional Subrata Paul said.
Odafe was his suave self, “What can I say other than thank you. I cherish the respect shown by my fellow footballers. I hope I can continue the good work.”
John Abraham, Rahul Bose and Nandana Sen added the glamour quotient to the event showing their solidarity and support for FPAI.
The impressive guest list included Mr. V. Manilal Fernando, AFC Vice-President, Mr. Alex Soosay, General Secretary,AFC, Mr. David Borja, FIFA Sr. Manager Development Programmes Asia, Mr. Chrysantha Perera, FIFA Development Officer, Ms. Michelle Chai AFC Director Vision Asia Department and Mr. Tokuaki Suzuki, Director, Competitions, AFC, Ms. Victoria Shanti, Secretary, AFC President’s Office, Mr. Maksat Klychmamedov, Development Manager, AFC Professional Football Project, Brendan Schwab, Chairman FIFPro Asia/Oceania, Chief Executive and General Counsel of Professional Footballers Australia(PFA) and Frederique Winia, Secretary to the FIFPro Board.
On the occasion Baichung bhutia was felicitated for his 100th appearance for India and Dipak Mandal honoured for his Arjuna feat.