Onwards And Upwards
The only trophy in attendance at this end-of-season function would be from Grilled International, who topped their Division Five league, but it was hard to hide the sense of optimism in the air. Whereas previous seasons had epitomised decline or stagnation, there appeared to be a recognition that the clubs were, finally, moving in the right direction.
Grilled Birds might not have distinguished themselves in II.2, for example, but Hovaness Noubaryan
was adamant that they definitely had very much room to improve. "We are a young squad, you must remember. Kalki, Vikram and Bilal are all, what, 24 or 25, and then you've got Chan Ze Han
starting regularly as a twenty-one year old. Their peaks won't come for quite a few years yet."
It was one of their number, Bilal Mohammad Harun
, who would be selected as the Birds' Player of the Season. He maintained his enviable record of having been available for and starting every single competitive match since his arrival midway through last season, and has moreover scored a very respectable nine times from his 20 outings in midfield this term. To add to that, he had not as much as been booked, in his 32 starts thus far.
"Bilal isn't flashy, but we have come to depend heavily on him." plaster-cased team captain Moey Xin Seng
noted. "He has been utterly consistent, and were I the manager, he'd be among the first few names on the teamsheet, no question."
Honourable mentions went to Chu Xin Lee
, Cyril Künzler
and Massoud Dob
. As for the Young Player of the Season award, however, there was nobody even close to Ho Dong Ze, one of the select very few to make the international news before even appearing in an official senior game. Ho was sadly unavailable even through videolink, but from how he has already claimed the Number One jersey at Szczawiki08, he will surely be discussed at The Cooking Pot for ages to come.
For the Farmer Bunnies, Brendan Leung
's flawless old-school man-marking has finally found appreciation, and from the surprise on the face of the 29 year-old when the result was announced, he had definitely expected to be overlooked once more. Vishnu Tallapaka
's Golden Boot and otherwise dominating stats had probably been discounted by comparatively poor defensive performances, while the Buns' internationals had all excelled, but not in any particularly exceptional way.
While they might not have had any youths on the level of Dong Ze, the Buns were not exactly wanting for talent, and Amogh Palkar has reportedly seen himself become a valuable contributor in Argentina with olivia. Competition was fierce, with Ooi Tze Yi, Lim Lai Min and Seah Meng Yong among others having gone on to build budding careers, but Palkar's multi-dimensional package won him Farmer Bunnies' Young Player title.
The prolific striking power of Fausto Perono
and Micky bin Kadir
had wowed Grilled International's judges before, but there was far less of that on show this season, despite International's ultimate triumph. Their Player of the Year was then Wang Hanxuan
, who perhaps not entirely coincidentally had managed to top their scoring charts, with nine goals. Safari bin Hj Jali
came a close second in the voting, with Ragib Banović
and Abdul Hamid bin Hj Ali Timbang
also gaining some support, the latter probably for his recent purple patch.
Hardi bin Besar
was the standout choice for Young Player of the Season, having all but permanently inserted himself into International's rotation as a midfielder, after claiming the Number Seventeen shirt. Lim Min Chu and Hj Kadi bin Osin were also noted, while among current Bees trainees, Tan Ming Ho and Azri bin Sazali are often mentioned as ones to watch.
The Birds and Buns squads would form up for a mock confrontation in prepration for their friendly match tomorrow, and Islom Davlatov
for one made it clear that he would be taking it seriously. "There's no real point in holding back."