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November 19, 2015

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Zheng in hunt for 2nd top Asian award

GUANGZHOU Evergrande captain Zheng Zhi’s bid to win a second AFC Player of the Year award will face competition from the United Arab Emirates in the form of Omar Abdulrahman and Ahmed Khalil.

The long-serving Chinese midfielder is no stranger to individual honors, having been adjudged the 2013 AFC Player of the Year as well as China’s Player of the Year in 2002 and 2006.

The 35-year-old Liaoning-born international has led Guangzhou to five straight Chinese Super League titles and captained the side that reached the Asian Cup quarterfinals earlier this year.

Zheng oversaw Guangzhou’s 2013 AFC Champions League title-winning run and scored a crucial goal in this year’s semifinal against Japan’s Gamba Osaka to guide his team into the final against al-Ahli which concludes on Saturday.

Al-Ahli’s Khalil will also be highly motivated in Saturday’s second leg, having been short-listed for the top AFC award. The first leg ended goalless.

The 24-year-old forward enjoyed a stellar year, scoring the fastest goal in AFC Asian Cup history by netting 14 seconds after kickoff against Bahrain in Australia. Khalil’s 10 goals make him the second highest scorer in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Asia.

Compatriot Abdulrahman, one of the leading talents in Asian soccer and a regular scorer for both al-Ain and the UAE national team, will also fancy his chances at the November 29 award ceremony in New Delhi.

Japan captain Aya Miyama will be hoping for a third AFC Women’s Player of the Year award, the Okayama Yunogo Belle midfielder having last won it in 2012, the year she helped the Nadeshiko win silver at the London Olympics.

Her national teammate Rumi Utsugi and FFC Turbine Potsdam’s defensive midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight of Australia have also been nominated for the award.


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