SINGAPORE- All those last-ditch tackles, acrobatic clearances and diving headers have paid off for LionsXII stalwart Baihakki Khaizan.
The 28-year-old picked up the Best Defender accolade at the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) annual awards in Selangor yesterday.
The hard-tackling Singaporean was a rock at the back for the Singapore outfit, who conceded just 15 goals in 22 matches en route to lifting the Malaysian Super League (MSL) title. A gleeful Baihakki showered praise on team-mates, officials, family and fans for his victory, which is the first for a Singaporean at the season-ending event.
"Every one of them played a role in helping me be where I am today," said the centre-back, who will play for big spenders Johor Darul Takzim in a reported $1.5-million, four-year deal from next season.
"It's the perfect end to a memorable season for us. To the fans, you were superb and I will always remember your voices."
Coaches from the MSL and second-tier Malaysian Premier League cast votes in each of the categories.
LionsXII coach V. Sundramoorthy, goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud and forward Shahril Ishak had also been nominated as the top six candidates in their respective positions.
But the trio lost out in the voting.
Kelantan and Malaysia No.1 Khairul Fahmi Che Mat claimed the Best Goalkeeper gong.
His team-mate Mohd Norfarhan, who scored six league goals, two fewer than Shahril, took the Best Striker award.
After leading Pahang to Malaysia Cup glory, local football legend Dollah Salleh edged out Sundram, who will helm Negeri Sembilan next season, as the Best Coach.
Kelantan's outstanding skipper Mohd Badhri Radzi was named the Most Valuable Player after receiving the highest percentage of votes. The 31-year-old playmaker, who bagged 16 goals in all competitions, also earned the Best Midfielder prize.
Former St Vincent and the Grenadines international striker Marlon James scooped the Best Foreign Player trophy after he plundered an MSL-best 16 goals for ATM.
Fans will get a closer look at Most Promising Player Junior Edsta of Sarawak later this month. The 22-year-old half-Swedish defensive midfielder will represent Malaysia at the SEA Games in Myanmar.
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