The stellar achievements of the Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Member Associations (MAs) and Regional Associations (RAs) were put firmly in the spotlight on Tuesday evening at the AFC Annual Awards Doha 2022, presented by the AFC’s Global Partner NEOM.
In a grand celebration dedicated to showcasing the best of Asian football, the outstanding efforts made by MAs and RAs in developing and enhancing the game, in order to continuously lift the standards of football across the Continent, were fittingly honoured at the Al Mayassa Theatre of the renowned Qatar National Convention Centre.
The Uzbekistan Football Association was named the AFC Member Association of the Year in the Platinum category, while the Lebanese Football Association took home the Diamond accolade; the Football Association of Hong Kong, China Limited and Guam Football Association won in the Gold and Ruby categories respectively.
To enhance the recognition of the MAs, the categories of the AFC Member Association of the Year awards have been revamped, beginning with this edition.
History was made by the Central Asian Football Association, who was named the AFC Regional Association of the Year – the first time this accolade has been given out at the AFC Annual Awards.
AFC Member Association of the Year – Platinum
Uzbekistan Football Association
In the wake of their excellence both on and off the pitch, the Uzbekistan Football Association (UFA) has clinched its first ever MA award.
Ravshan Irmatov, Vice President of the UFA, said: The Uzbekistan FA is delighted to receive this great award and we would like to thank the AFC for recognising our efforts.
“This award serves as a testament to the tireless efforts of all the UFA staff members as well as the football leadership of the nation and we hope to achieve greater success and stage more world-class tournaments in the coming years.”
Supported by the UFA’s leadership, the association hosted the AFC U23 Asian Cup™ 2022, AFC U20 Asian Cup™ 2023 and AFC Women’s Club Championship 2022 Pilot Tournament (West), and organised various regional tournaments, in addition to serving as a centralised venue for Qualifiers for three different AFC competitions.
A historic maiden triumph was achieved by the young White Wolves at the AFC U20 Asian Cup™ Uzbekistan 2022, which sealed a berth at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2023 – there, they reached the Round of 16 in their fifth appearance.
The UFA has set a laudable example for other MAs with its profound commitment to transparency and accountability, by acknowledging the importance of good governance with the alignment of their governance documents with the standards of FIFA and AFC.
An unyielding advocacy for child safeguarding and the upholding of integrity in the sport has been demonstrated by the UFA, in parallel with determined efforts to foster increased female participation in football – underscoring a dedication to inclusivity and fostering an environment of respect and diversity.
The UFA has also successfully organised a plethora of courses and seminars, spanning areas such as coaching, refereeing, sports psychology, sports marketing, football analytics, and sports medicine.
AFC Member Association of the Year – Diamond
Lebanese Football Association
The Lebanese Football Association (LFA) also collected its maiden MA accolade, after making significant efforts in contributing to football development under the guidance of its visionary leadership.
LFA President Hachem Haidar said: “Football holds a very special place in the hearts and minds of the Lebanese people, and we are extremely pleased to be receiving this prestigious award.
“This is dedicated to the staff at the Lebanese FA, our valued stakeholders and to passionate fans all across the nation, whose fervent support for the game is a key reason for our success. We are fully committed to ensuring that we raise the game across all levels in the coming years.”
These include organising a number of domestic competitions in spite of the global pandemic and post-pandemic crisis, resulting in a total of 941 matches at the senior level alone – a massive number relative to the size of the country. Overall, 5,000 players participated in leagues that encompass the first to the fifth divisions.
The LFA also demonstrated its commitment to firm governance by keeping in line with FIFA and AFC standards, while coming up with additional guidelines to ensure strong and effective administrative processes. On top of these improvements, the LFA successfully organised regional and continental qualifying matches.
AFC Member Association of the Year – Gold
The Football Association of Hong Kong, China Limited
The Football Association of Hong Kong, China Limited (HKFA) picked up their third MA award, having been named as Developing MA winners in 2015 and 2019.
HKFA President Pui Kwan Kay commented: “When you look at the recent challenges we have faced, particularly during the global pandemic, the HKFA has continuously had to find innovative ways to ensure the game continues to grow from strength to strength.
“We would like to thank the AFC for this incredible recognition, and we are confident that we can continue on this path of excellence.”
A standout achievement came in the form of the national team’s qualification for the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™, which will end a 55-year absence from Asia’s crown jewel – the longest hiatus of any team in the tournament’s history. This was pulled off despite the implementation of stringent pandemic measures in early 2022.
The HKFA has also maintained the highest standards of governance and developed relevant Statutes and codes that are aligned with the principles of FIFA and the AFC.
Outside of the field, technical standards of the game have been uplifted with the organisation of various coaching and refereeing courses, while the Video Assistant Referee system has been put in place in the Hong Kong Premier League.
AFC Member Association of the Year – Ruby
Guam Football Association
A second-time winner after taking home the Aspiring MA award in 2019, the Guam Football Association (GFA) stood out for their fresh internal capacity-building initiatives.
GFA President Valentino San Gil said: “The GFA is pleased and thankful to the AFC for acknowledging our efforts. We are fully dedicated towards strengthening the beautiful game in Guam and this award will inspire us to reach new levels of success in the future.”
Empowered by their general secretariat, the GFA kept itself busy in the aftermath of the pandemic by introducing an online training platform, Kantola, for staff and coaches.
Comprising seven mandatory courses, the sessions focused on topics such as identifying and preventing instances of harassment at the workplace, ethics, leadership, customer services, and time management, among others.
Naturally, utmost importance has been accorded to accountability and transparency, with a clean external audit opinion of the GFA’s financial statements being made public in a local newspaper.
Footballing activities were also in full swing, with the GFA investing in infrastructure and conducting all the domestic leagues on their annual calendar.
AFC Regional Association of the Year
Central Asian Football Association
Comprising the Member Associations of Afghanistan, Islamic Republic of Iran, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) is the inaugural winner of this award.
CAFA General Secretary Ulugbek Karimov said: “We are very pleased to receive this great award; to be the first Regional Association to win the prestigious award is indeed an honour and we are motivated to increase our competitions and programmes to benefit our MAs in the region.”
Established in 2015, CAFA is the youngest of the AFC’s RAs and has swiftly made their mark. Notably, it has hosted as many as 11 competitions during the Awards-eligible period, including both senior and age-group tournaments for men’s and women’s national teams.
The CAFA has implemented an AFC-approved Statutes and Electoral Code to ensure good governance and is also the beneficiary of the AFC Enhance Programme for Regional Associations, with a clean external audit opinion from the AFC’s independent external auditors showcasing their expertise in financial management.