Every year there are some exceptional regional team and individual displays, and 2017 was no different.
From football to golf to swimming, headlines have been created with their achievements filling up countless column inches of this newspaper.
For Egyptians, it’s been a memorable 12 months with their national side qualifying for their first World Cup since 1990, while Farida Osman put the country on the map in the pool.
UAE rugby side Abu Dhabi Harlequins enjoyed an exceptional year, wrapping up all five domestic titles, while Henk Ten Cate used all his experience to bring success to Al Jazira.
Golfer Rayhan Thomas had a year to remember while the likes of Chirag Suri, Amna Al Qubaisi, Ed Jones and Achraf Hakimi deserve praise for their fine feats. Here are the Sport360° Regional Sports Award winners for 2017…
SPORTSMAN ON THE YEAR
Since arriving at Liverpool in the summer, the Egyptian forward has been a revelation. His blistering pace and eye in front of goal, has already seen him score 21 goals in all competitions and we have not even reached the new year yet. More memorably, he kept his cool to hit the decisive penalty that sent Egypt to next year’s World Cup – his fifth goal for the Pharaohs in the qualifers.
SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR
Became the first Egyptian – man or woman – to win a medal at a World Aquatic Championships, claiming bronze in the 50m butterfly in Budapest last summer, her 25.39 seconds swim smashing the African record. Earlier, Osman won her first-ever individual NCAA title for Cal Berkeley, becoming the third-fastest swimmer in history in the 100-metre butterfly with 50.05 seconds.
TEAM OF THE YEAR
The best year in their history, the best year arguably in any UAE sports team’s history. An unprecedented five trophies were lifted by Mike McFarlane’s dominant side as they steamrollered all before them – the West Asia Premiership, West Asia Cup and UAE Premiership all earned in 2017. To put their achievement in context, Real Madrid have just won five trophies in 2017 – something even one of the most successful sides in club football history had never done in a calendar year.
COACH OF THE YEAR
The Dutchman showed why he held assistant roles at Barcelona and Chelsea by masterminding Al Jazira to their second-ever league triumph. He admitted he didn’t have the best players but he did have the best team, and that showed as his side came through two stern matches to face Real Madrid in the Club World Cup semi-final, before finishing fourth – the best ever position by a UAE side.
A year that saw him make the cut at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, the Dubai-based prodigy rewrote history by becoming the first Indian to reach the semi-finals of the US Junior Amateurs. As top seed, he was also part of the International side that lost to the US at the Junior President’s Cup and also shot a world record-equalling nine birdies in a row on the MENA Tour.
Not only did she become the first Emirati girl to win the Rotax Max Challenge, but also she won a seat in Formula 4 next year with the Prema team.
Was part of Gujarat Lions’ squad in the IPL, becoming the first UAE cricketer to do so. Didn’t play but his skills saw him break into the senior team.
The 19-year-old rightback finally made his Real Madrid first team debut, scoring once in his four caps, as well as opening his account for Morocco.
Dubai-born star had a debut to remember, producing a stunning rookie performance to finish third in the Indy 500 for Dale Coyne Racing.
Premier League clubs haven’t been shy of spending big this summer.
Indeed, it’s likely this will be the highest-spending transfer window to date as teams show no signs of slowing down.
New signings are a delight for fans but has the money been spent right?
Here’s five picks we think big bucks may have been slightly misplaced, or at least too many extra digits added in the cheque book.
The Tottenham full-back joined Manchester City in a deal worth up to £50m earlier this month – and the fee itself raised a few eyebrows.
While Pep Guardiola’s obsession with speedy and attacking full-backs is widely known, few expected City to spend so big on Walker – a man who was ousted from the first-team picture by Kieran Trippier last term.
In his eight seasons at Spurs, Walker of course won plenty of plaudits for being one of the league’s standout right-backs and has featured regularly for England, but for a player who is often criticised for his defensive frailties and indeed his end product when going forward, his price tag seems very steep.
While £50million is definitely the new £20million in today’s market, Walker’s value is still richly inflated. That’s no fault of the player but is he good enough to live up to such a billing?
For starters, he has to fight off fellow new signing Danilo to become the club’s main man at right-back.
The 24-year-old centre-back was one bright spark in a miserable campaign for the Clarets last time out and while the former Manchester United man is a solid defender, there’s debate over whether he’s worth £30million.
Again, another illustration of today’s inflated prices and the fact Burnley knew the Blues had cash to burn.
Keane will no doubt help sure up what was a leaky Toffees backline at times last season but doubts remain over his pace and certainly his ability to play and bring the ball out of defence.
He is likely to replace Phil Jagielka as a first-choice central defender and you have to wonder how much Jags would have been worth, if his pomp was in 2017. It’s a generalisation, but there’s not too much between the two.
On his day, the towering Austrian is one of those players who can wreck havoc on the pitch.
The sad thing is, he has failed to do this on a consistent basis and his attitude has often been found wanting, something Mark Hughes can probably attest to – and no doubt played a role in his departure.
The way Arnautovic instigated his exit from the Potters was perhaps par for the course in terms of modern football, handing in a transfer request and then subsequently throwing his toys out the pram.
That did for West Ham though, with Slaven Bilic’s men shelling out £25million on his signing alongside the most expensive pay package in the club’s history with wages up to £140,000 a week.
He’ll get his fair share of goals next season but many would say he isn’t as good as he thinks he is, with work-rate, productivity in front of goal and his general enthusiasm on the pitch sometimes not being reflective of the faith managers have placed in him.
It’ll be interesting to see how it all pans out at the Olympic Stadium given they are in desperate need of goals and he’s only hit double figures twice in his career.
The talented Dutchman didn’t exactly set the world alight during his loan spell with the south coast club last term, but he did enough for Eddie Howe to make the move permanent and pay Chelsea a club-record £20million for his signature.
Ake registered three goals in 10 Premier League appearances last season – an impressive goalscoring feat for a centre-back – but of greater concern would have been his lack of game time.
While that could likely change come August, doubts remain over the 22-year-old’s ability as a top-class defender. The fact he failed to ever establish himself at Chelsea only adds further wait to this argument.
Bournemouth have paid a massively inflated price for his services and it seems risky business when they could have brought in more experience.
Ask Liverpool fans what they remember of the Spanish right-back from his loan stint at Anfield during the 2014-15 season and you’ll be greeted with a wry smile. Manquillo was a huge miss on Merseyside, and since then, has done little to enhance his reputation.
Last season, he was again on loan in the Premier League, at Sunderland, during their torrid relegation campaign – so that’s why it was so surprising to see Newcastle pay his parent club Atletico Madrid £4.5million for his signature.
It’s actually a bit of a bizarre signing and a baffling one at that, but Manquillo is still only 23 despite his plethora of clubs to date.
Toon fans may actually like how Manquillo played a part in their bitter rivals’ drop from the big time – he should definitely use that to his advantage when settling in at St James’ Park.
The annual Sport360 Award winners have been announced!
Based on the choices of our writers, we whittled each category list down to a shortlist of six, and left it YOU to decide who should triumph in each category.
From international sportsman to regional team of the year, here is the complete list of winners:
INTERNATIONAL SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR – CRISTIANO RONALDO
Given the gaudy numbers he puts up every season, Ronaldo’s individual achievements tends to be measured in goals and assists but in 2016, he shone by being an integral part of two incredibly successful teams.
He scored 16 goals in 12 Champions League games as Real Madrid won their 11th European crown and six weeks later was collecting the European Championship trophy in Paris for Portugal’s first major international triumph.
By his own ridiculous standards, it wasn’t maybe Ronaldo’s greatest season in terms of his own performances but as a team-mate, it certainly was.
INTERNATIONAL SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR – KATIE LEDECKY and KATINKA HOSSZU
The American teenager made a massive splash at the Rio Games, shattering the field by unheard of margins.
Ledecky won four gold medals (three individual) and a silver at the Olympics, setting two individual world records in the process and also becoming the first woman to sweep the 200m, 400m and 800m freestyle events at the Olympics in 48 years.
In fact, in the 800m freestyle final, Katie won with a world record time of 8:04.79, which was an incredible 11 seconds faster than the silver medallist, Jazmin Carlin.
Ledecky’s seven individual golds at the World Aquatics Championships and 11 combined individual titles at the Olympics and World Aquatics Championships are records in women’s swimming. And as icing on top of a magnificent cake, Ledecky became the youngest person named to the Time 100 list of most influential people in the world this year.
The dynamic Hungarian swimmer had a memorable 2016. The ‘Iron Lady’ won three gold medals and a silver at the Rio Olympics, and also broke the world record in 400m individual medley and Games record in 200m individual medley. Her individual medal haul was the most by any swimmer at the Rio Olympics, a truly remarkable achievement.
It was an astonishing effort from Katinka, especially after the pain of missing out on a medal at London 2012 following which she nearly gave up. However, with support from husband and coach Shane Tusup, Katinka regained her touch and at the age of 27, beat much younger opponents.
The champions swimmer than capped off a successful year by winning her sixth gold medal at the World short-course Swimming Championships.
INTERNATIONAL TEAM OF THE YEAR – PORTUGAL
Let’s not try and sugar-coat it, Euro 2016 was a bit of a stinker. Okay, there was Iceland and Wales and a handful of good games but in the main it was one of the least memorable international tournaments since… well, probably World Cup 2010.
That being said, in a tournament of so many below-par teams, one of the giants of Europe like Germany, France or Spain would be there to sweep up.
But that’s not how it panned out as Portugal, who like Iceland and Wales but with added star power, played with a unity and spirit of a club side to beat France in the final and lift the first trophy in the country’s rich history.
REGIONAL SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR – OMAR ABDULRAHMAN
A continual criticism of the ridiculously-talented Al Ain playmaker, and one that will always be applied to players in his position, is that for all his brilliance, his inconsistency means that a team’s overall performance will always depend too much on whether he managed to turn up or not.
This year offered further evidence of that… but more often that not, Omar had the UAE and Al Ain humming. ‘Amoory’ fulfilled his destiny by, finally, being named 2016 AFC Player of the Year. This prestigious individual title followed a run of eight man-of-the-match awards in 14 games as the Boss fell to a painful defeat to Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in the AFC Champions League final.
This near miss, in which he failed to shine, was also repeated in the President’s Cup and Arabian Gulf League. But a lack of silverware does not take away from the technician’s sustained brilliance.
REGIONAL SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR – NADA AL BEDWAWI
The 19-year-old Emirati may not have won any medals in Rio, but made her mark before she had even stepped in the pool by becoming the nation’s first female Olympic swimmer.
Al Bedwawi – who was also given the honour of carrying the national flag at the Parade of Nations – participated in the women’s 50m freestyle and while her time of 33.42 seconds in the heats wasn’t good enough to qualify, it was a personal best, and her impact on UAE sport will be everlasting.
REGIONAL TEAM OF THE YEAR – ABU DHABI PROTON RACING
An historic year for the team who finished third in the LMGTE Am class at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, becoming the first Emirati team to claim a podium place at the race.
It was also a wonderful season overall as they won the final race of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season, the 6 Hours of Bahrain, in November to finish the season second overall in the LMGTE Am class. The result in Bahrain was the team’s second victory of the season, having also triumphed in Mexico. A fine effort from Khaled Al Qubaisi, David Heinemeier Hansson and Patrick Long.