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After Thirteenth Years, The White Swans Landed ...

Harvest Year for Albirex Niigata (Singapore)

Newly-crowned Great Eastern Yeo's S.League Albirex Niigata (Singapore) signed off their season in style when they walked away with three notable awards in the annual S.League Awards Night held days ago at Marina Bay Sands.

Striker Atsushi Kawata was named the recipient of the prestigious "Player of The Year" award, alongside his coach Naoki Naruo who collected the "Coach of The Year" accolade and teammate Tomoki Menda was credited to have scored the "Goal of The Year".

Atsushi Kawata (center) is "Player Of The Year"

On top of that, the White Swans also picked up the "Fair Play" award on the same evening that, however, saw Naofumi Tanaka lost out to national midfielder M Anumanthan in the "Young Player of The Year" category.

Should that happen, it would be almost total domination both off and on the field as well, following the unprecedented sweep of all four major trophies in Singapore football by the Yuhua-based club.

While heralded the just concluded season as a fruitful yet surreal experience, Albirex's General Manager Koh Mui Tee foresees it will be challenging for his team in the upcoming season.

Coach Naoki Naruo (right) completed the impossible

"Next year will be a tough year for us," said Koh who spoke to this blogger on obstacles ahead facing his team. "I think the local clubs will be very determined to beat Albirex next season."

"I am glad the hard work by the whole club, from the players to the coaches to the administrators have finally come to fruition after thirteen years,

"The feeling is surreal, but we are happy that we have many trophies to show to our fans and supporters at the end of the season." added the administrator who joined the club in 2010.

Naofumi Tanaka (5) missed out on the podium

In spite of calls to seek removal of foreign clubs from the S.League, as championed by "Majulah SG Football" (one of the groups, led by former Woodlands Wellington manager R Vengadasalam, touted to run for the upcoming FAS elections) who listed that notion as one of their manifestoes, their existence is deemed beneficial to some in the scene.

"There must be something we can learn from (them), so if we can pick up those good details from their success, we have learned," said Coach Philippe Aw who seemingly felt the presence of the foreign clubs in the league should be seen as a value-added initiative.

Coach Aw, who started off his coaching path from the youth level, went on further to elaborate on his thoughts.

He said: "For many seasons, Albirex displayed a good brand of football. It's something that over the years as a young coach I watched, learned, and then applied.

"(When) the last two seasons' league titles were won by foreign sides (Brunei DPMM won the title in 2015), we have to ask ourselves why? Could it be hard work and desire?"

After thirteenth years, the White Swans landed

Nonetheless, some quarters felt the recent successes enjoyed by both Albirex and DPMM are because they are not perturbed by problems facing the local clubs such as the national team's training schedules, international dates stipulated by FIFA, etc. to which Aw felt those are mere "distractions".

He believed all these boiled down to how training is to be conducted where teams would improve in areas like communication and better understanding within the team.

"Football is about communication between the eleven players and how we improve (on) this is through training effectively as a team." explained the 39-year-old who guided the S.League Selection to the Sultan of Selangor Cup victory back in May in Shah Alam.


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