Asian football in 2019 once again belonged to Tottenham and Korea Republic star Son Heung-min as he was named the Best Footballer in Asia for the fifth time in the past six years.
It was perhaps not that big a surprise considering the year he had, helping Spurs reach the UEFA Champions League final and playing a starring role in the absence of talismanic captain Harry Kane.
Son polled a total of 258 points to claim 31.6 per cent of the total on offer and finish well clear of runner-up Akram Afif (114 points) and third-placed Takumi Minamino (90 points).
The Best Footballer in Asia – presented by Titan Sports – was introduced in 2013 as Asian football’s answer to the famed Ballon d’Or award, and is similarly voted for by various journalists and experts across the continent.
Each judge votes for his or her five best players with each receiving six, four, three, two and one points respectively, meaning the maximum on offer in 2019 was 306.
One man has indeed been the dominant force of Asian football in recent years.
— FOX Sports Asia (@FOXSportsAsia) January 5, 2020
But just who exactly made up the Best Footballer in Asia judging panel for 2019?
The list is as follows:
Judges representing AFC members (37)
Australia: Simon Hill – Football commentator of FOX Sports Australia
Cambodia: Ung Chamroeun – Editor-in-Chief of ThmeyThmey
Indonesia: Weshley Hutagalung – Editor of bolasport.com
Malaysia: Ugarajan Krishnan – Reporter of The Star
Myanmar: Sithu Aung Myo Kyaw – Reporter of Myanmar Times
Philippines: Cedelf Tupas – Sportswriter for Philippines Daily Inquirer
Singapore: Rhysh Roshan Rai – Football commentator and pundit
Thailand: Urai Patthamawattana – Senior editor of Siam Sport
Vietnam: Truong Anh Ngoc – Vietnamese football writer and commentator
China PR: Ma Dexing – Deputy editor of Titan Sports
Chinese Taipei: Robert Lee – Reporter of China Times
Hong Kong: Matthew Li – Reporter of Ta Kung Pao, football expert
Japan: Shuichi Tamura – Senior reporter of Number Sports Graphic
Korea Republic: Kim Hyun-ki – Senior editor of Sports Seoul
Macau: Zhang Zhiming – Reporter of Macao Daily News
Afghanistan: Khoshhal Taib – BBC Pashto journalist, Vice President of Afghanistan Sports Journalists Federation
Iran: Pejman Rahbar – Editor-in-Chief of varzesh3.com
Kyrgyzstan: Bakyt Shukuraliev – Reporter of AKIpress
Tajikistan: Aloviddin Buriev – Chief editor of TV Varzish Sports
Turkmenistan: Alexander Vershinin – Correspondent of the State News Agency of Turkmenistan
Uzbekistan: Davron Fayziev – Football commentator and writer
Bahrain: Fawaz Al Abdulla – Bahrain Sports TV commentator
Iraq: Hassanin Mubarak – Iraqi football expert
Jordan: Waheed Al Masri – Reporter of Middle East Broadcasting Center
Lebanon: Charbel Krayem – Chief editor of al-akhbar.com
Kuwait: Marzooq Al Ajmi – Kuwait football writer and expert
Oman: Jaber Al Ajmi – Correspondent of Oman Daily Observer
Palestine: Mohamad Iraqi – Reporter of Al-ayyam
Qatar: Majed Al Khelaifi – Chief editor of Doha Stadium
Saudi Arabia: Bataal Algoos – head of sport department of Al Arabiya TV
United Arab Emirates: Ali Khaled – UAE football writer and expert
Yemen: Basheer Senan – Senior editor of Al Riadi Net
Bangladesh: Sanat Babla – Reporter of Kaler Kantho
India: Arunava Chaudhuri – Indian football expert and founder of arunfoot.com
Maldives: Azzam Ali Fulhu – Senior reporter of Mihaaru News
Pakistan: Natasha Raheel – Correspondent of The Express Tribune
Special guest judges as Asian football experts (14)
John Duerden – Football writer of AP, Guardian, goal.com, FourFourTwo
Xavier Barret – Editor of FranceFootball
Michael Ashelm – Reporter of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Martin Gruener – International football reporter of Kicker
Fabio Licari – Reporter of La Gazzetta dello Sport
Tariq Panja – Reporter of The New York Times
Gabriel Tan – Football editor of FOX Sports Asia
Jonathan White – Reporter of South China Morning Post
Pedro Santos – Editor of Jornal Ponto Final
Michael Church – Reporter of Reuters
Talek Harris – Sports editor of AFP
Wael Jabir – Founder and CEO of Ahdaaf Agency
Omar Al Raisi – Chief editor of TSJSports
Facts of the Best Footballer in Asia 2019
1. 51 judges were invited to vote for the BFA 2019. Among the 51 judges, 37 represented 37 AFC regions/areas. Fourteen other jurors are journalists from flagship media outlets like FranceFootball, Agence France-Presse, La Gazzetta dello Sport, Reuters, The New York Times, Kicker, South China Morning Post, or reputable Asian football experts
2. Among the 51 jurors, Son Heung-min was voted for by 49 – among which were 35 1st-place votes.
3. Son Heung-min obtained 31.6% of all points in the voting (258 of 816) in his fifth victory in BFA. This is the most points ever accrued in BFA history. The most dominant victory before this year was also Son in BFA 2018, when he obtained 29.2% of the points (206 of 704).
4. Though two of the Top 3 in The Best Footballer in Asia 2019 are from East Asia, six of the Top 10 are either from West Asia or non-Asian players from the leagues of this region (if we consider Iran as a West Asian nation regardless the fact that it is a member of Central Asian Football Association). For the first time in BFA history, representatives of the Western Asian football occupy the majority of the top 10 in the standing. It corresponds to the achievements of West Asian football in Asian competitions in the past year – Qatar won the Asian Cup for the first time in history and Al-Hilal lifted the AFC Champions League trophy.
5. The powerhouses of the Best Footballer in Asia 2019 indicate that a new generation of Asian football elites have arisen. Son, who has won five of the past six editions, has not reached the age of 28 and will continue to be in his prime for few years. The other four players ranked behind him – Akram Afif, Takumi Minamino, Almoez Ali and Sardar Azmoun – were all born after 1995, with the oldest among them (Azmoun) having just celebrated his 25th birthday. In the years to come, they should consistently challenge Son’s reign in Asian football, form and fitness permitting.
6. Apart from the players from the 24-man shortlist given to jurors upon the time of voting, Yasser Al-Shahrani (Saudi Arabia), Arslanmyrat Amanow (Turkmenistan) and Elkeson (China) were three players not in the list who received votes in BFA 2019 by virtue of nomination from the judges. Al-Shahrani gained two points while the latter two received one point each.