AFC Futsal Player of the Year: Rafael Henmi
Kuala Lumpur: An MVP-winning display at the AFC Futsal Championship coupled with his key role in helping Nagoya Oceans finish third at the AFC Futsal Club Championship has earned Japan star Rafael Henmi the AFC Futsal Player of the Year award ahead of last year's winner Mohammad Keshavarz and Thailand's Suphawat Thueanklang.
"I have been working hard for this moment. For any player, it's a dream come true and I am really excited to be here and win this trophy," said Henmi after receiving the prestigious accolade from AFC Executive Committee Member and Chairman of the AFC Futsal Committee Richard Lai.
Henmi helped Japan take top honours at the AFC Futsal Club Championship in the UAE, where the 20-year-old achieved a goal-a-game ratio in a series of standout performances.
He started the competition in emphatic fashion when he confidently dispatched a free-kick in the dying seconds of Japan's opening match to give the eventual champions a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Lebanon and followed up his match-winning strike with a goal against Tajikistan, a double against Chinese Taipei; the winner in the 1-0 quarter-final victory over Kyrgyzstan and the third in the semi-final defeat of Australia before maintaining his record of scoring in every game with Japan's fifth in the final as Japan outclassed Thailand 6-1 to win the AFC Futsal Championship for the second time.
A little over a month later Henmi was again in AFC futsal competition but this time it was for club side Nagoya Oceans, as the Japanese giants defended the AFC Futsal Club Championship title in Kuwait.
Having been part of the champions-winning side last year, silverware eluded him this time round as the Oceans had to settle for third place, with Henmi scoring twice in the 4-1 victory over Qatar's Al Rayyan to take his tally for the tournament to five.
"Whoever plays with joy, technique and discipline are the contenders for this award," Henmi continued.
"All of us who took futsal as profession or as game don't play for individual accolades back home but we play for the love of futsal. It's a great game to play and to be involved with.
"I am adamant that this award, which I am receiving now, can inspire other Japanese youth to play this futsal and do better and achieve our goal of being one of the top teams not only in Asia but in the world."