National footballer Safuwan Baharudin is The Straits Times Athlete of the Year

SINGAPORE - Singapore's national footballer Safuwan Baharudin was named The Straits Times Athlete of the Year, at an awards ceremony held at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront today.

The award, presented annually by The Straits Times, the English flagship daily of Singapore Press Holdings, honours the athlete who made the greatest sporting impact last year and pays tribute to outstanding Singapore athletes whose individual and collective triumphs and achievements lifted the Singapore sports scene in 2013.

In a media statement released today, Baharudin's contributions to the local sports scene were highlighted and the judges also shared how the footballer stood out among other contenders for the title.

The 22-year-old, a centre-back with the LionsXII and the Singapore national football team was pivotal in helping the LionsXII clinch the Malaysian Super League championship last year. A steady influence at the back, Safuwan also chipped in with crucial goals which led to the LionsXII bringing home Singapore's first Malaysian league title since 1994.

The feat was even more remarkable considering that the team was an all-Singaporean team with an average age of just 22 years. But his accomplishments did not end there. After a long season with the LionsXII, Safuwan helped guide the national Under-23 team to a SEA Games bronze medal at the Myanmar Games last year.

The award was presented to Safuwan by Mr Lawrence Wong, Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information, who was the Guest-of-Honour at the event.

The other three nominees were Peter Gilchrist (Billiards), Joseph Schooling (Swimming) and Dipna Lim-Prasad (Athletics).

Mr Marc Lim, Sports Editor of The Straits Times, said: "All four nominees are winners in their own right and the judging panel had a tough time debating why one outstanding athlete stood out from the other. In the end, the amazing consistency that Safuwan showed match after match, tournament after tournament, made him a worthy winner.

"He helped make Singapore football part of the Singapore sporting conversation again. The buzz he and his teammates created with their brand of football made Jalan Besar the place to be on a Saturday night. Football fever was back and it was contagious.

"It is always hard to single out an individual in a team sport. But Safuwan's assured performances at both ends of the field, for club and country, is why his accomplishments shine just that much brighter than his peers."

Previous winners of The Straits Times Athlete of the Year are: Laurentia Tan (2012) Fu Mingtian (2011) Women's Table Tennis Team (2010) Quah Ting Wen (2009) Tao Li (2008)