Soccer / World Cup

Okudera, Sawa inducted into AFC Hall of Fame

Reuters, Kyodo

Homare Sawa, who served as Nadeshiko Japan captain when it won the 2011 Women’s World Cup, and Yasuhiko Okudera, who became the first Japanese to play pro soccer in Europe, were among the first 10 players to be inducted into the Asian Football Confederation’s Hall of Fame on Friday.

In 2011, Sawa also collected the Golden Shoe and Golden Ball. She won the Women’s World Player of the Year award the same year and helped Japan win the London Olympic silver medal in 2012.

Okudera made his first-team debut for the then powerful Cologne in October 1977. Okudera’s contribution was highly significant as he helped Cologne to clinch a Cup double in the first 12 months of a three-year stint at the club.

Former South Korean defender and coach Hong Myung-bo, Iran’s Ali Daei and ex-Australian international Harry Kewell were also inducted.

Hong, frequently labeled Asia’s best defender, captained the Koreans to a fourth-place finish at their home World Cup in 2002, one of four finals in which he played at, as he racked up 136 caps.

He had a less enjoyable experience at the World Cup earlier this year as head coach when the team bowed out at the group phase with only one point and he soon quit the post.

Former Bayern Munich striker Daei played 149 times for Iran and scored over 100 goals for his country, while Kewell, who was voted Australia’s greatest ever player, was inducted despite many of his best years coming before the Socceroos were permitted to join the AFC in 2006.

They were named alongside Iran’s Homayoun Behzadi, Soh Chin Aun of Malaysia, Saudi Arabia’s Sami Al Jaber and Indian Baichung Bhutia in the inaugural list.

China’s Sun Wen, who scored 106 goals in 152 appearances for her country was the other woman named among the 10.