The Gamba Osaka midfielder Yasuhito Endo has been named Asian Player of the Year, capping a fine season in which he helped Japan qualify for the 2010 World Cup and reached the Asian Champions League last 16 with his club. Endo, 29, becomes the fourth Japanese player to win the award. He finished 20 points ahead of compatriot Kengo Nakamura and Sayed Mohamed Adnan of Bahrain, in the voting and was presented with the award by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) on Tuesday. Syria's Firas Al Khatib and Iranian Hadi Aghily were also nominees.
Past Japanese winners were Masami Ihara (1995), Hidetoshi Nakata (1997-98) and Shinji Ono (2002). "I hope I can be a role model for young players everywhere and give hope to others in Asian football," said Endo, who will be in Japan's squad for next summer's World Cup in South Africa. Endo played three Asian Cup 2011 qualifiers this year as well as six Champions League matches. The AFC Player of the Year Award is decided by points awarded by match commissioners and the AFC's technical study group officers. Huh Jung-moo was named coach of the year after taking South Korea to the World Cup finals while Pohang Steelers were named team of the year for winning the Asian Champions League.