Pune - Talismanic central midfielder Djidja Pierre Douhou Sey, in his comeback year at Pune FC, completed a huge turn around laiming the ‘Pune FC Player of The Year 2011-12’ award.
The Côte d’Ivoire twenty-five-year old grabbed eyeballs twice during the glittering Pune FC’s Award Night, with the second moment initiated by his teammates who nominated him for the ‘Players’ Player Award’.
Douhou became the third foreign player and first midfielder to receive Pune FC’s highest honour. The awards function – the third in a row – also celebrated Pune FC’s fifth season in existence as the only professional club in the city known as the Oxford of the East.
The year-end function held at the Courtyard Marriot, situated in the ever-growing IT hub at Hinjewadi, saw Douhou receive a glittering trophy and a cash-incentive of Rs 2.0 lakh for the top award of the day, which incidentally was the last for the evening.
For the record, Douhou returned to the club roster this season after a one-year hiatus. Earlier, Douhou figured in the squad in its maiden year of elite football in India.
For Douhou the one important reason that swung the top-award his way was the contribution towards the team’s performance that included maximum assists.
“God thank you… and to all the support extended by my family and every single friend. Thank you Pune FC for the honour,” was his short address as he walked off after Pune FC directors Rajeev, Nandan and Harsh Piramal handed over the award.
The other award that Douhou picked up was the ‘Players’ Player Award,’ an award nominated by the entire Pune FC senior team (I-League) squad. The Rs 1 lakh cash award and trophy was presented by Pune FC’s first-ever skipper Mahendra Mani, who specially came down for the function from Bangalore.
The moment on stage was nostalgic wherein the former Pune FC central midfielder announced and handed out the award to the present midfielder.
“It’s been a long time and many new faces in the team… but then the class Pune FC maintains in being different still exists,” opined Mahendra on the sidelines of the function.
Two new awards unfolded during the evening making the total count 12 (eight for the seniors and four for the juniors) for the 2011-12 season. Both awards were for the senior section. The first – the ‘Urvi Ashok Piramal Foundation (UAPF) Award’ was for a players’ contribution to the community through football and the other was for the ‘Best Trained Player Of The Year.’
Medio Arata Izumi became the first recipient of the UAPF Award with Pune FC Assistant Manager, Marketing, Abhishek Mehta doing presentation honours.
Kerala-born wingback Othallo Tabia topped training hard all year long and received his award from Pune FC Fitness Trainer, Sridhar Krishnamurthy and Pune FC Physio, Tariq Shaikh. The award was worth Rs. 50,000.
Punjab’s left-wing back Gurjinder Kumar received the ‘Goal of the Year, Award’ for his strike against Chirag United Kerala during the Round-3 game at home. The goal, incidentally, was the opening goal of the match that ended 3-1 in Pune FC’s favour and turned out to be the first win of the I-League 2011-12.
Infosys Vice President, Mritunjay Singh presented Gurjinder ‘Sunny’ the award and a cash prize of Rs 50,000.
Striker and 2010-11 Player of The Year Mandjou Keita was voted ‘Fans’ Player of the Year,’ through an email-your-vote procedure. From a 31,180-odd Pune FC fan base on Facebook four fans Aditya Warty, Yazad Baldawala, Siddharth B and Mayur Karanjkar were on hand to present the people’s choice award.
The ‘Best Young Player’ award went to Manipur-born Singam Subash Singh, who this year stepped up his contribution when in the strike zone with seven goals. The striker was richer by Rs 1.5 lakh – a raise compared to last year’s amount of Rs 50,000 – and was presented by Pune FC Head Operation Chirag Tanna.
Long serving midfielder Shanmugam Venkatesh claimed the ‘Man of Steel,’ which is an award given to the player with the maximum appearances for the Pune FC seniors in the Federation Cup and I-League.
The 34-year-old Bangalorean, in his fourth season at the club, boasted of a staggering 28 appearances in this season so far, which translates into figuring in every Federation Cup and I-League match!
Venkatesh, to date, has played 260 elite division I-League games of which 70 are for Pune FC.
In continuing with their pursuance to encourage and award the junior players, Pune FC for the second year feted six of its players across three age groups. Pune FC Head of Operations Chirag Tanna said, “They deserve the motivation as they are the future. Through them we need to create awareness that hard work is rewarded and the mission is to strive for success.”
In the Under-19 section, promising Abung Thangjam Meetie, who hails from Manipur and a trainee of the Peninsula Pune Football Club Academy established last year, was adjudged ‘Best Player (Under-19)’ and received his award by PFC Under-19 coach Gift Raikhan.
Kolhapur’s Nikhil Kadam, who along with Abung powers the midfield, gave Maharashtra reason to believe that talent exist, earned the ‘Best Disciplined Player’ award and was handed over his prize by Pune FC Senior Executive (Admin) Amit Dharap and Pune FC Senior Executive (Accounts) Atul Pande.
The ‘Best Under-17 Player’ award went to midfielder Pankaj Gore, while the Jorden Fernandes claimed the ‘Best Under-15 Player.’ Both Pankaj and Jorden are city-based players and are in their second year with the club.
Barring the Player of the Year that carried a Rs. 40,000 cash prize all junior awards was worth Rs 20,000 apart from a trophy for all.
The function overall was peppered by a recap of memorable Pune FC moments on the field, a solo act by PFC Under-19 Coach Gift Raikhan and dance performances by Piyush Malhotra Dance Academy.