AFC Referee of the Year (Men): Yuichi Nishimura
Kuala Lumpur: Top Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura has ended Ravshan Irmatov's dominance of the AFC Referee of the Year award after claiming the individual accolade ahead of the four-time winner from Uzbekistan and Iran's Alireza Mohammad Faghani.
Nishimura's quality shone through when he was entrusted with the potentially explosive second-leg of the 2012 AFC Champions League semi-final between arch-Jeddah rivals Al Ahli and Al Ittihad in what was his third appointment in this year's edition of Asia's premier club competition.
In another highlight of 2012 Nishimura was also involved in the Olympic Games, with the 40-year-old officiating the group stage fixtures between Brazil and Belarus and hosts Great Britain and Uruguay, while the two-time J.League Referee of the Year also took charge of two matches in the final round of Asian qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup as well as a Round 3 qualifier for the London Games.
"Personally I am emotional and thank AFC for recognizing the hard work we put on in the field. Refereeing is one of the toughest jobs but I love it and fully committed to it," said Nishimura after receiving the AFC Referee of the Year award from Dato' Worawi Makudi, Chairman of the AFC Referees Committee.
"This award is dedicated to all the referees working in Asia who put their heart into officiating this beautiful game of football. Asian referees are top class and it's not only just a few of us as there are several referees who are on top of their game in.
In fact, in football we are behind Europe and may be in other continents but not in refereeing.
"It's nice to finally win this trophy but believe me I really respect Ravshan Irmatov who is one of the best referees in the world. But I repeat again there is a huge pool of fantastic referees in Asia."