Short But Not So Sweet
This season's closing ceremony would be brief and sombre after the glitz of the last few - and given that those had national-level trophies to show off, this was hardly to be unexpected. The continued coronavirus restrictions contributed to the dampened mood, as only a small selection of the players would attend the function in person, with the rest dropping in via webcast.
The perfunctory introduction by the board chairman would be followed immediately by the awards, and it would be Abd Hadi Taib Mazhud
to be declared the Birds' Player of the Season. For good reason too, with the 29 year-old having outscored both Vikram Mudaliar
and Kalki Parvathaneni
, though the latter was a very close second in the popular voting, thanks to his continued production from the left.
Chicken Wings defender Lai Yong Ah claimed the youth version with a series of solid performances at the back, although whispers were that he received it partly due to there being just so many contenders in midfield. Well, with Grilled's anchors aging fast, this is as good a time to break through as any.
Farmer Bunnies would have Lim Su Liang
claim the accolade, bolstered by reliable reports of him being on the fringes of the national squad. Vitaliy Efendiev
won some admiration for his industry, but not actually enough to be in the running, with Aitykul Zaripbekov
and last season's winner Richard Agyei
rounding out the top three picks.
picked up the YPOTY honour, after the former academy lad did decently in his five cup starts, even scoring decisively against Dragon Devil's in the Sapphire Challenger Cup. "He's fearless and gets forward well." veteran Kwek Yun Jie
praised, as he handed the trophy over. "Nothing's set in stone, of course. It's all up to him."
As for Grilled International, Wang Hanxuan
picked up his third POTY - ten seasons after his first - a true testimony to his longevity. The 31 year-old may not be the ball-busting box-to-box do-it-all he once was, but none could quite match his effectiveness in front of goal, not even the formidable Ragib Banović
. That said, some very bad team performances have made such estimations slightly awkward, to say the least.
It would be Helmy Syamsuzaman
to pick up the U-20 version in his last year of eligibility, though most pundits agreed that there wasn't much competition this season, with none of his many juniors either in the reserves or academy having stood out.
Finally, it fell to Hilal Bakhtiar
to close the event, and after some rather textbook words, he would wink and draw a cup in the air. Not lost his sense of humour, at least.