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 By Kenneth Tan

Faris Ramli beaten to top award by Nagasaki at FAS Nite 2017

Jason Dasey and John Wilkinson discuss the new rule that will make S.League sides more youthful and examine the future of the national team.

Home United's Faris Ramli was pipped to S.League Player of the Year (POTY) by Kento Nagasaki, of Albirex Niigata (S), at the inaugural Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Nite 2017.

Despite enjoying an outstanding individual season, which garnered 21 goals and as many assists in all competitions, Faris finished second behind Nagasaki, who helped Albirex complete their second consecutive quadruple of trophies.

Home teammate Stipe Plazibat, who finished second-top scorer in the S.League with 25 goals, was also a losing nominee for the same category.

Held at the Marina Bay Sands on Monday evening, the glitzy affair brought the local football fraternity together to celebrate 125 years of Singapore football and round off the 22nd season of the S.League.

Albirex midfielder Nagasaki was recognised after an outstanding season in which he shone with his playmaking ability and pinpoint free kicks.

The 27-year-old yielded 11 league goals, which is the highest of his five successful seasons in Singapore. He's now reported to be closing in on a move to a Thai top-flight side.

"I have not decided on my next move yet," he said. "But as a player, I'm always targeting to reach and play at a higher level.

"In the last four seasons before this, I probably didn't have the spirit and will. But this season, I decided to change; I told myself I must score more and do more for the team, that's why I worked very hard.

"Winning the POTY award was one of my targets for this season, so I'm happy that I achieved it."

Home United's Faris Ramli laments Home United's missed chances as they see the S.League title slip further out of reach.

Aside from Nagasaki, Albirex collected three other honours on FAS Nite.

Kazuaki Yoshinaga followed in predecessor Naoki Naruo's footsteps by winning the Coach of the Year award after successfully retaining all four pieces of domestic silverware -- the Charity Shield, League Cup, a third straight Singapore Cup and the 2017 S.League title.

The former Shimuzu S-Pulse man similarly hinted that he will not stay at his post beyond 2017.

"The club will make the announcement soon and you'll hear from them," he said.

"Maybe I just need to think about how to contribute to Singapore football more [if I stay]. Definitely, the level of the S.League need to improve.

"I just want to thank my players, the chairman and everyone associated to the club for this award. The main target was to win the S.League again, but we wanted to go an even higher level to win more trophies. I'm very happy that we did it."

Hot shot Tsubasa Sano collected the Top Scorer Award for his 26-goal haul -- one more than Plazibat -- while the White Swans also picked up the Fair Play Award.

Albirex did not entirely stole the show though, with local club Balestier Khalsa picking up two awards.

Attacker Hazzuwan Halim won the Young Player of the Year award after a breakout year that saw him score eight goals in all competitions.

The 23-year-old is now fuelled to make the step up to the international stage.

"It's a really good season for me, especially because we didn't have so good foreigners with us," he said.

"I'm surprised to score that many goals and I have to thank coach Marko [Kraljevic]. After every training, I will stay back to practice shooting with him.

"Of course my next target is to be in the Singapore national team next year and that'll be a big dream come true for me [if it happens]."

Midfielder Huzaifah Aziz picked up the coveted Goal of the Year for his jaw-dropping 30-yard volley that brought a 1-0 win against Garena Young Lions in September.

To round off the awards, Sukhbir Singh was named Referee of the Year for a second straight time while Edwin Lee won the Assistant Referee of the Year.

The 2018 S.League will have a new ruling that at least six under-23 players must be in every local club's roster and three of those to start in every game.

The foreign players' quota is also to be reduced from three to two.

The season will kick off in late March to allow the club to adjust to the stipulated changes.

Winners' List

Player of the Year: Kento Nagasaki (Albirex Niigata (S))

Young Player of the Year: Hazzuwan Halim (Balestier Khalsa)

Coach of the Year: Kazuaki Yoshinaga (Albirex Niigata (S))

Top Scorer Award: Tsubasa Sano (Albirex Niigata (S))

Goal of the Year: Huzaifah Aziz (Balestier Khalsa)

Referee of the Year: Sukhbir Singh

Assistant Referee of the Year: Edwin Lee

Fair Play Award: Albirex Niigata (S)

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

 

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