Hougang United’s M. Anumanthan became the first Singaporean since Hariss Harun in 2010 to win the Yeo’s Young Player of the Year accolade as he fended off hot favourite Albirex Niigata (S) defender Naofumi Tanaka and Home United duo Shahrin Saberin and Song Uiyoung.
After receiving his award at the annual Great Eastern Yeo’s S.League Awards Night at the Marina Bay Sands on Tuesday evening, the Hougang midfielder said it was ‘a dream come true’ for him.
“It (the chances) was 50-50, the players around me were hyping me up,” Anumanthan shared.
“First of all, I’m thankful to God for this award. I’d also like to thank my teammates, those who voted for me and the national team selectors.
“It’s hard to single out one area (of improvement for myself) and my teammates have been great this year. Unfortunately, we finished sixth (in the league) but all in all, it’s been a good year.”
When asked about the difference between 2015 and 2016, Anumanthan – who was formerly on the books of the Garena Young Lions – said: “For me I think it’s about the mentality.
“When you are at different team, they instill in you a different mentality. Here at Hougang, everyone is matured and they really push you to next level.
“What’s most important to me is the environment and the players.”
For now however, he has his sights firmly set on the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup kicking off later this month.
“A big tournament is coming up, so my focus is on the Suzuki Cup now,” Anumanthan said.
“Hopefully we can win it, I have confidence in my teammates and I think we are preparing well.”
Meanwhile, Albirex Niigata (S) hotshot Atsushi Kawata – who was up against compatriot Fumiya Kogure, Ken Ilso and Hafiz Sujad – bagged the coveted Great Eastern Player of the Year award.
“This is my happiest moment since birth,” he enthused.
“I have won league titles in the past, but this is the first time I have won so many titles at one go so I’m very proud.
“I’m happy with this award but as a team we won the title this year, so it was overall a good result for us.”
Finding the net only six times in the 2015 campaign, the 24-year-old then added that he felt he had improved physically this year.
“Back in Japan, I was playing against university players,” Kawata said.
“But here in the S.League, I have played against quality foreign players and I think that’s how I came to improve in that aspect.”
Report by: S.League Sebastian Lim