Sam’s big night out in Bangkok
Sam Kerr honoured at annual AFC Awards as player of the year01 December 2017 | Pablo Bateson
Australia’s superstar footballer was the hot favourite to take out the coveted AFC Player of the Year award for 2017, and that's precisely what happened at the Aksra Threatre King Power in Bangkok on Wednesday at a lavish event co-ordinated by the Asian Football Confederation.
Prior to gathering there were networking opportunities a plenty as the FIFA President, Gianni Infantino travelled to the “land of smiles” along with a who’s who of football administration leadership from across Asia.
FFA Chairman Steven Lowy and CEO David Gallop were there for Australia, with the AGM less than 24-hours away. We can only speculate what was the nature of informal conversations they had with the FIFA boss, as the distinct possibility looms of intervention with a “normalisation committee” to take over the reins.
In my brief chat with Lowy, he projected confidence about a resolution to the stand-off with an “it will be fine” concluding comment. Obviously, time will tell as the stakeholders (including marginalised fans) hold their collective breaths and our ‘football family’ lurches forward.
Former Trinidad and Tobago international and Manchester United and Sydney FC star Dwight Yorke was in town too. A myriad of local and international non-football celebrities was also attracting attention on the red carpet.
Disappointingly, there were only two Aussies at this event covering for media purposes. It was fortunate that I am already based in Bangkok, and another expat freelancer flew in from Japan.
No television station or mainstream major news outlet from our nation seized the opportunity despite the likelihood of an Australian major award winner. Not surprisingly, this ongoing pattern continues to perplex AFC officials who consistently do an excellent job providing support and assistance for any visiting media.
Apart from the many category awards, the more than 1,000 guests were entertained by a mix of spectacular traditional and adapted Thai dancing.
Steven Lowy was on stage to receive a Congratulatory Memento alongside all four other AFC member nations that qualified for the Russia 2018 World Cup finals.
Then came Sam’s turn. Upon the announcement of award success, her words of acceptance were humble and respectful to other nominees. Looking radiant, she included special recognition to her club and Matildas team-mates.
After the ceremony concluded, Sam holding her massive sized trophy and two Aussie merchandise icons spoke exclusively to Football Today.
“Best thing about this award, there are many other Australians who have won it before. And that makes it even more special to be in the same company as the players I look up to,” said Kerr.
“It’s a pretty cool moment, something I will probably reflect on later in life and be very proud of.
“Individual awards are great but you play for your team-mates and without them nothing of this would be possible. I’m lucky to be part of such a great national team (Matildas) and part of a good Federation that looks after us girls”.
When questioned about possible variations to her gymnastic style goal celebrations, she laughed and said “I like to have fun and express my emotions."
Kerr’s message for girls aspiring to become elite footballers is simple: "Keep working hard and have fun."
At the press conference where she appeared with male counterpart award winner, Omar Khribin from Syria, the poise and dignity continued.
Kerr later told me of the importance of winning this season’s W-League title with Perth Glory after she was on the losing side in the Grand Final last season against Melbourne City.
Looking ahead with the Matildas, she said the “Asian Cup is in Jordan, and hopefully we can bring the trophy back to Australia” and that they also had one eye on France, where the next Women's World Cup will be held in 2019.
It is no overstatement to say that Sam Kerr has the potential to become a national sporting icon of all time to join the likes of Cathy Freeman, Margaret Court, Dawn Fraser and Majorie Jackson-Nelson.
Even now, step aside Timmy (Cahill), you now have superstar compatriot to share the attention. Sam is providing enjoyment for and inspiration to hundreds of thousands of young people and especially girls who love playing football.
Full details of the Annual Awards program and nominations are available here.
afc awards, sam kerr