The Lion City Sailors were well represented at the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Awards Night 2023 – held at Orchard Hotel on Thursday (24 November) night, with a slew of Sailors recognised for an excellent 2023.
All eyes were on Maxime Lestienne, who was the favourite to win the AIA Player of the Year after a stellar season which saw him delivering 25 goals and 21 assists – both league-topping tallies. And there was little surprise when he beat Balestier Khalsa’s Ryoya Taniguchi and Albirex Niigata (S)’s Seia Kunori to the most prestigious prize of the night.
On top of receiving the Top Scorer award, the brilliant Belgian was also named in the SPL Team of the Year along with two other Sailors – Diego Lopes and Shawal Anuar, who was second in the league’s assist charts with 13, and the joint-top local scorer alongside teammate Abdul Rasaq Akeem with 10 goals.
Going home with three individual trophies in the bag, Maxime was pleased but turned his focus back to the football pitch.
“I’m very happy and proud to win this trophy. I enjoy this individual honour, but all year me and my teammates have worked hard together – so this victory is about them too. Without them, I cannot win this,” said Maxime.
“But now my focus is very much on the next two to three weeks – we’re aiming to win the Singapore Cup and we want to qualify for the last 16 of the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions League as well. These are big goals for me and the team to go for.”
In leading the Sailors Women’s Team to a second successive Deloitte Women’s Premier League (WPL) title, Yeong Sheau Shyan staved off competition from Hougang United’s Sivaraj Geevananthan and Tanjong Pagar United’s Samawira Basri to retain the WPL Coach of the Year gong she won in 2022.
In a season that saw the Women’s Team have to cope with several absences due to mid-season player departures and youngsters leaving for overseas scholarships or studies, the 45-year-old was able to improvise and inspire her charges to an outstanding season, winning 16 matches and drawing one with one remaining match left to go.
FAS Awards Night 2023: Photos courtesy of FAS
There were no individual awards for the women players, with Izzati Rosni and Syazwani Ruzi both losing out in the Deloitte WPL Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year awards respectively.
“I was quite sad for Wani because I thought she deserved a chance; she has improved so much, she truly stepped up this season and has become a leader on the pitch for us despite her young age,” said Sheau Shyan. “But besides that disappointment, I have to say it was really a huge team effort this year.
“Last year was different – we had 20 over players to call upon, there were quality players to come off the bench if anyone from the first 11 was tiring. This year, we had to work with a skeleton squad of 12 to 13 players on an average on matchday and that was really difficult to plan. But the players were resolute and carried out whatever game plan I had for them, so I have to dedicate my win to them.”
Sailors Women’s Team goalkeeper Noor Kusumawati Rosman picked up a FAS Special Award for sporting excellence in Singapore football, rounding off an eventful decade-long career with 51 caps with the Lionesses – the second-highest capped women’s player in Singapore behind Ernie Sulastri Sontaril.
Rounding up the club’s list of award winners, there was also double joy for the Sailors media team that swept all available media awards for the very first time.
Kenneth Tan’s story titled: Yes, we work like women – and it’s been wildly effective, that turned the spotlight on the contributions of two females in the Sailors ranks, was named the Story of the Year, while Ashok Kumar’s photo of Maxime in full flight at the Bishan Stadium, with the caption: Beguiling mix of Belgian muscle and magic, took the Photo of the Year award.
Sailors’ Winners for FAS Awards Night 2023
AIA Player of the Year: Maxime Lestienne
SPL Top Scorer: Maxime Lestienne (Winner)
SPL Team of the Year: Maxime Lestienne, Diego Lopes, Shawal Anuar
WPL Coach of the Year: Yeong Sheau Shyan
FAS Special Award, Sporting Excellence in Singapore Football (51 National Team Caps): Noor Kusumawati Rosman
Story of the Year: Yes, we work like women – and it’s been wildly effective by Kenneth Tan
Photo of the Year: Beguiling mix of Belgian muscle and magic by Ashok Kumar