kolkata: September 27
Inspirational East Bengal midfielder Mehtab Hussain won a ‘double’ at the Indian Football Awards organised by the Football Players Association of India in a glitzy late-night ceremony here on Monday.
The Indian midfielder won the ‘Best India Player’ award before winning the ‘Fans Player of the Year’ through online voting.
Hussain witnessed a slump two seasons back following a groin injury but he came back in shining colours last season, especially under the tutelage of East Bengal coach Morgan.
Hussain was instrumental in East Bengal’s stupendous success last season in which they won the Federation Cup, local league and finished runners-up in I-League.
The magical midfielder thanked Morgan for bringing the best out of him.
“I thank my coach for playing me in the creative position in midfield. I also thank my teammates. I thought I could not play anymore because of this groin injury but my wife supported me fully. I thank the Almighty and then you fans for supporting me all these years,” he said.
Bhaichung Bhutia, who is the FPAI president, could not attend the function because of bad weather in Gangtok.
“Because of bad weather, I could not make it to the event. But I wish the event all the success,” he said in a message.
Bhutia’s national jersey was auctioned at the programme as it fetched INR 50,000.
Indian tennis star Leander Paes, who was among the celebrities, also came forward and signed a football to be auctioned for the victims of Sikkim earthquake.
“My heart goes out to bhai (Bhaichung) and all the brothers in Sikkim,” Paes said.
Moroccan coach Karim Bencherifa, who coached Salgaocar to the I-League title last season, was presented with the ‘Best Coach’ trophy.
Crediting Salgaocar players for the award, Bencherifa said: “I must thank all the I-League clubs, right from Churchill Brothers, Mohun Bagan to Salgaocar to give me opportunity here. The credit for this award goes to Salgaocar players.”
India goalkeeper Subrata Paul, who represents Pune FC in the I-League, got the maximum online voting to win the ‘Fans Player of Asian Cup’ award.
Receiving the award, the goalie said, “When one performs well for the country, fans will always love him. This is no secret.”
Paul said playing in the 2011 Asian Cup was like a dream come true for him.
“Let’s hope that we once again make the Asian Cup in 2015.”
Promising Pune FC striker Jeje Lalpekhula won the ‘Best Young Player’ trophy.
Organised by the FPAI, the third edition of the event was all about charity as well in the aftermath of the quake-ravaged Sikkim, which happens to be the home state of the Indian football icon Bhutia.
Churchill Alemao, the patron of Churchill Brothers, was also felicitated on the occasion and he thanked the ailing former AIFF president Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi for the development of Indian football.
“He was the man who brought this National Football League (NFL). Today, the footballers have a demand in the country. The credit for all this goes to Dasmunshi.”
Alemao also revealed that Churchill will always regret that they could not have the inspirational Bhutia on board anytime.
“I always wanted Bhaichung Bhutia to play for Churchill Brothers. But he always wanted to stay in Kolkata.”
Best Indian Player: Mehtab Hussain (East Bengal)
Best Foreign Player: Roberto ‘Beto’ Mendes Silva (Dempo)
Best Coach: Karim Bencherifa (Salgaocar)
Best Young Player: Jeje Lalpekhula (Pune FC)
Fans Player of Asian Cup (online voting): Subrata Paul (Pune FC)
Fans Player of the Year (online voting): Mehtab Hussain (East Bengal)