Qatar’s Akram named Asia’s best player
Akram Afif is Asia’s best player. The Qatar international was named the AFC Player of the Year 2019 at the AFC Annual Awards in Hong Kong on Monday.
Akram beat off the competition from Japanese defender Tomoaki Makino and Iranian goalkeeper Ali Reza Piranfand.
Akram is the third Qatari player to receive the award, after Khalfan Ibrahim in 2006 and Abdelkarim Hassan in 2018.
Afif was tipped as a future star since his early years that saw him play for Spanish youth teams Sevilla and Villarreal, before being called up for Qatar’s team for the 2012 AFC Under-16 Championship qualifiers and 2014 AFC U-19 Championship.
Not yet 20, Afif was part of Qatar’s 2016 AFC U-23 Championship campaign that was led by head coach Felix Sanchez and the forward was again part of the squad in the following edition, where Qatar finished third.
A permanent member of the senior national team since 2015, Afif was instrumental in Qatar’s Asian Cup UAE 2019 triumph, with one goal and 10 assists.
At the club level, he played an integral part as Al Sadd won the 2018-19 QNB Stars League.
The 23-year-old played a key role in Al Sadd making it to the 2019 AFC Champions League semifinals, scoring five goals before their run was ended by eventual winners Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia.