With the year almost over, we proudly present the 2012 Chinese Football awards. We take a look back over the last 12 months to bring you the very best and very worst in what was an extremely eventful year for Chinese football. Here are this year’s winners, as selected by ‘s expert panel.
Chinese Player of the Year – Wang Yongpo (Shandong Luneng)
In a year in which foreign players dominated the CSL even more than usual, Luneng’s Wang Yongpo pulled off a minor miracle in making 8th in the CSL top scorers chart with 10 goals despite playing in midfield for a team which were close to relegation, and being one of the, how can one put it, less lean players in the league. But Shandong Luneng, China’s second most succesful club after Dalian Shide, owe the midfield heavyweight a debt of gratitude – without his goals they could easily have gone down.
Foreign Player of the Year – Cristian Dănălache (Jiangsu Sainty)
It’s very hard to pick anyone other than the Romanian forward whose goals kept Jiangsu Sainty in the championship race much longer than anyone dared predict. His tally of 23 goals in 28 league matches was hugely impressive and just three goals off Li Jinyu’s CSL record of 26 he scored for Shandong in 2006.
Manager of the Year – Dragan Okuka (Jiangsu Sainty FC)
Hands-down winner is Jiangsu Sainty’s Dragan Okuka. He lead the Nanjing team as they pushed Guangzhou Evergrande all the way in the title race on a budget which was a fraction of the Cantonese team’s. The former Serbia under-21 coach was also named the CSL’s manager of the year and masterminded a 13-game unbeaten run which saw Sainty draw level with Evergrande in the title race in the closing stages. Unfortunately a winless final four games saw Okuka’s men run out of steam, but that doesn’t take anything away from a year which Sainty fan’s themselves would never have dared imagine as they qualified for their first ever Asian Champions League campaign as CSL runners-up.
Young Player of the Year – Tang Miao (Guangzhou R&F)
In terms of awards, Tang Miao may have slipped under the radar elsewhere but not at . The 22-year-old right-back missed only one game in his first CSL season and made his debut for the national team in June. Not bad for a guy who didn’t cut it at Beijing Guoan and was farmed out to Guoan’s youth team in the Singaporean League for a year. One to watch for the future.
Best Away Fans’ Showing – Hunan Billows @ Yuexiushan, v Guangzhou R&F
Hunan Billows, a team in China’s League One brought more fans to a midweek CFA cup game in Guangzhou than any CSL team all year, with the exception of R&F‘S city rivals Evergrande. Not the biggest away showing, but the most impressive considering the lower-league status of Hunan. Proof that passion exists on all levels of the game in China.
Match of the Year – Guangzhou Evergrande 3-2 Beijing Guoan – July 1
A top of the table clash at the half-way point of the season and a great advert for the CSL. Two of the best teams in the league locked horns in a “pulsating clash” as we described it at the time, in a game which more than lived up to its pre-match hype.
Best Chant – Dalian Shide’s Jilang (Blue Wave) against Guizhou – November 3
An emotional farewell to their club in their final home match of the season saw the group stay behind after the final whistle. The ultras went through their entire repertoire of songs, as the lights in the stadium around them went out, plunging them into darkness – a poignant reflection of the demise of their club, eight times Champions Dalian Shide.
Worst Dive of the Year – Gao Lin (Guangzhou Evergrande)
Gao Lin retains the award for cheating this year, this time for diving to win a penalty in the Asian Champions League quarter-final between Evergrande and Al Ittihad. Going down with virtually zero contact is one thing, rolling around on the turf afterwards is a further act of shame.
Worst Kit of the Year – Shanghai Shenxin’s yellow home shirt
‘s panel was fairly unanimous for this one – the team from Jinshan Beach went from their old red shirt when based in Nanchang, to a curious yellow and white effort far from easy on the eyes. Will they change colours for two years in a row next season?
Biggest Waste of Foreign Player slot – Leonardo Guangzhou R&F
Competition for this award was fierce, but R&F’s Brazilian striker beat off the challenge of Shenhua pair Nicolas Anelka and Mathieu Manset to claim the prize based on the fact he made just one solitary appearance for the Cantonese side. Leonardo’s slot was taken in the summer transfer window by Yakubu who showed just what a waste his predecessor was by scoring 9 goals in 14 games.
Stupidest Decision of the Year: The CFA allowing Guangzhou Evergrande to register two extra foreign players.
The Asian Champions League is taken more seriously in China than elsewhere, and the CFA’s desire to see Chinese success was so strong that, in something of an ironic ruling, they allowed Guangzhou Evergrande to register 7 foreign players in its squad over the usual 5 on the grounds that it would help their ACL run. It did no such thing, with Evergrande crashing out in the quarter finals, but it did give the 2012 and 2011 champions an unfair advantage over the other 15 CSL clubs who were limited to five foreign squad members, making a mockery of the concept of fair play which is fundamental to any sporting competition. Thankfully this ridiculous ruling has been overturned for next season, let this 2012 award stand as a monument to folly.
The Bezek Award for Heroic Deeds – The unknown Shenhua soldier.
Author: Cameron Wilson
UK trained journalist and long-time Chinese football observer Cameron Wilson has been writing about Chinese football for over a decade…