Saudi striker Nasser al-Shamrani named AFC player of the year
'I'm living for today. I'm not thinking about anything else,' Shamrani said
Saudi striker Nasser al-Shamrani, who faces an eight-game ban for spitting and head-butting an opponent in the final of the Asian Champions League earlier this month, was controversially named AFC Player of the Year on Sunday.
Shamrani pipped Qatari playmaker Khalfan Ibrahim and United Arab Emirates defender Ismail Ahmed to the prize after scoring 10 goals in the AFC Champions League campaign this term.
However, the prize-giving came just hours after Yemen’s Hamid al-Shaibani, deputy chairman of the Asian Football Confederation's disciplinary committee, revealed the striker would be banned for eight games, according to the waslnews media portal.
The report said the ban, the least he could have received after being found guilty, is only for matches in the AFC Champions League, meaning he will be free to represent his country at the Asian Cup in January and his club Al Hilal in domestic competition.
The AFC said the Saudi Arabian Football Association, also present in Manila, had not been informed of the decision, refusing to confirm or deny the report which came embarrassingly just before their 60th anniversary gala dinner in the Filipino capital.
The award was determined by the number of man-of-the-match displays in domestic, continental and international matches, not factoring in a player’s disciplinary record.
Shamrani showed little remorse on Saturday when he said it was a normal reaction to spit and claimed he was verbally abused by Western Sydney Wanderers defender Matthew Spiranovic in his side's 1-0 aggregate defeat.
"I'm living for today. I'm not thinking about anything else," said Shamrani, who is known as the “earthquake,” when asked if winning the award was a bittersweet moment with a ban looming.
"I'm proud of myself that I am the best player of the year. For anything else please talk to AFC," the 31-year-old told reporters through a translator.
Undoubtedly talented, the passionate forward showed a disappointing reaction to the pain of defeat.
He was clearly seen spitting at Spiranovic after the final whistle and was restrained by team mates after jumping to his feet and storming toward the substitute.
AFC statutes say six matches is the minimum punishment for a player found guilty of spitting at an opponent, with two matches the least a player can expect for assaulting.