Proud Xavi hails victorious Afif
Hong Kong: Al Sadd head coach Xavi has revealed his personal pride at seeing Qatar’s Akram Afif crowned 2019 AFC Player of the Year on Monday.
With Afif unable to attend the ceremony due to his commitments with the Qatari national team’s Gulf Cup campaign, Xavi accepted the award on his behalf at the ceremony held at Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre.
Afif received the prestigious honour after an exceptional year for both club and country, producing 10 assists to help power Qatar to the AFC Asian Cup title in the United Arab Emirates in January, before playing a key role as Al Sadd won the Qatar Stars League and reached the AFC Champions League semi-finals.
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Xavi, who has worked with Afif as both a teammate and head coach at Al Sadd, was delighted to receive Asian football’s biggest individual honour in his place.
“I’m very proud,” said the decorated former FC Barcelona star.
“It’s a privilege to be here representing him, and, first of all, it’s well deserved, because he was making the difference in the national team.
“Also, with us, Al Sadd, until the semi-finals of the Champions League. It was a pity that we couldn’t reach the final but it’s a pleasure to coach him. He’s an unbelievable talent, and a big player, so I’m very happy for him.”
very happy to be selected as the Asian Player of the Year. This is a great honor for me. thanks to my teammates and brothers the players of my club as well as the coaching staff and all the national team family, would like to tell them we are all “players of the year”. pic.twitter.com/nFa3wXhvQ9— Akram Afif |اكرم عفيف اليافعي (@akramafif_) December 2, 2019
While Afif, 23, has now reached the top of the Asian football mountain both in terms of national team and individual success, Xavi believes his relatively young age means this year’s AFC Player of the Year Award could be just the beginning for a player who he believes holds boundless potential.
“There are no limits for him,” Xavi declared. “I have told him many times that he’s an amazing player and he has many capacities to play football.
“He’s a talent. He can play everywhere. It depends on him: his mentality, his ambition, because he has everything (required) to play football.”
With the AFC Asian Cup title secured in historic circumstances, the eyes of the world now turn towards Qatar’s performance at the next FIFA World Cup, which they will host in 2022.
A key player in Spain’s FIFA World Cup winning squad in South Africa nine years ago, Xavi is well-placed to judge Qatar’s chances of enjoying success in their first appearance on the senior world stage, and he believes fans of Al Annabi have much to look forward to.
“Obviously (Akram) is one of the best players of the national team, (but it’s) not just Akram,” he warned.
“This generation is amazing. It’s an amazing generation that Qatar have. I think they will compete well in 2022 and I’m proud to be part of this project.”
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