Albirex's Kawata and Naruo take top honours at 2016 S.League Awards
Albirex Niigata (S) duo Atsushi Kawata and Naoki Naruo took the top prizes at the 2016 S.League Awards Night.
Held at Marina Bay Sands on Tuesday evening, it was a glitzy affair to round off the 21st season of the country's domestic competition.
Naruo deservedly won the Coach of the Year award after leading Albirex to win all four pieces of silverware on offer: the Charity Shield, League Cup, Singapore Cup, and their first-ever S.League title.
It capped off a great return for the 42-year-old, whose first stint with the White Swans in 2009 yielded no trophies, and a disappointing seventh-placed finish.
"I'm very happy to win this award: I was given a target to win four trophies in preseason, and we did so," he said.
"I approached every match carefully, planned match by match, and the team was very motivated."
"I have to thank my team because I wouldn't win this award if we didn't win four trophies."
Striker Kawata won the Player of the Year gong by scoring 20 goals en route to their quadruple feat.
His important goals included the opener in their 2-0 defeat of Tampines Rovers in the Singapore Cup final.
"This is the happiest moment of my life ever since I was born," said the 24-year-old.
"I was playing with university students until I arrived in the S.League last year.
"It was the first time I experienced playing against foreign players who are physically stronger, so I improved my physical strength in order to perform this year. I still want to improve more to become an even better player in the future."
There was further joy for the Japanese club as they won the Fair Play Award, while defender Tomoki Menda picked up the Goal of the Year Award for his stunning volley against Garena Young Lions that drew comparisons with Marco Van Basten's classic goal against USSR in the 1988 European Championships.
Albirex did not sweep all the major awards as expected though, with hot favourite Naofumi Tanaka beaten to the Young Player of the Year prize by Hougang United's M. Anumanthan.
The 22-year-old became the first Singaporean to be granted the honour since Hariss Harun in 2010.
"It's a dream come true to win this award, and I have to thank the good teammates at Hougang for always backing me up," he said. "It's a good environment at this club and it has helped me mature as a player.
"Now the important thing for me is to focus on the upcoming AFF Suzuki Cup and I have confidence in my teammates that we can do well at the tournament."
Rounding off the awards, Warriors FC won the Fan Club of the Year, referee Sukhbir Singh was named Referee of the Year, while Brunei DPMM's Rafael Ramazotti picked up the Top Scorer Award for the second year running with 20 league goals - one more than Home United's Ken Ilso.
S.League Awards Night 2016 Winners
Player of the Year - Atsushi Kawata (Albirex Niigata (S))
Young Player of the Year - M. Anumanthan (Hougang United)
Coach of the Year - Naoki Naruo (Albirex Niigata (S))
Top Scorer Award - Rafael Ramazotti (Brunei DPMM)
Goal of the Year - Tomoki Menda (Albirex Niigata (S))
Referee of the Year - Sukhbir Singh
Assistant Referee of the Year - Ong Chai Lee
Fair Play Award - Albirex Niigata (S)
Fan Club of the Year - Warriors FC