Rafi is best Indian footballer, Odafe foreigner of the year

Sunday, September 12, 2010

NEW DELHI - Churchill Brothers striker Mohammed Rafi was adjudged the best Indian footballer, while his teammate Odafe Onyeka Okolie of Nigeria was crowned the best foreign footballer at the star-studded Football Players Association of India (FPAI) Awards here Sunday.

Dempo’s Jaoquim Abranches was named to the young player’s award and his coach Armando Colaco was the best coach. National team goalkeeper Subrata Paul, who plays for Pune FC, won the fans’ player award.

Dempo’s Anthony Pereira was nominated the fittest player of the year by his national teammates.

India captain Baichung Bhutia, Dipak Mondal and Sunil Chettri were also felicitated during the ceremony.

Bhaichung played his 100th match last year while Chettri is the first Indian to play in the Major League Soccer (MLS) in the US and Mondal got the Arjuna Award this year.

Players from 14 I-league teams voted through secret ballot to choose the winners in all the categories except the fans’ player award that was completed through online voting.

“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,” said Rafi.

An emotional Paul said: “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.”

Bhutia, the FPAI president, said he was grateful to everyone for 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 M.S.Gill and AIFF President Praful Patel for finding time to be a part of this occasion,” he said.

Bollywood actors John Abraham, Rahul Bose and Nandana Sen were present at the award along with Gill and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Mohammad Bin Hammam.

Filed under: Football, Soccer

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