Wu Lei wins Footballer award for the 4th time
Grassroot Cunchao series scores top prize
Published: Feb 26, 2024 10:38 PM
Photo: Courtesy of Titan Sports

Photo: Courtesy of Titan Sports Media Group

China's soccer star Wu Lei won the top prize in Chinese soccer, Chinese Footballer of the Year 2023, on Monday with 510 points from a voting body made up of professional sports journalists, outscoring fellow forwards Yu Hanchao and Wei Shihao.

Representing Chinese Super League champions Shanghai Port, Wu contributed 18 goals to the team's title win last season after a five-year silverware drought. It also ranked him at the top of domestic strikers, and second in the overall scoring list.

"This is my first time accepting the award on scene as previously I was playing in Spain," Wu said at the ceremony, recalling his past achievement when he was playing for Spanish club RCD Espanyol. 

"To be honest, since last year, I've felt somewhat ashamed [to accept the award]. The performance of the Chinese national team hasn't been particularly ideal in the past few years," Wu said.

Wu's club Port was also stunned by last season's Chinese FA Cup champions Shanghai Shenhua in the Super Cup by 1-0 on Sunday. 

"Anything related to soccer is extremely challenging and comes with immense pressure. The more difficult the situation, the more we need to work together to create a better environment," Wu said. 

The annual under-21 award went to Behram Abduweli, who played for ­Sichuan Jiuniu in the League One last season. 

The team was promoted to the Chinese Super League this season and relocated and rebranded as the Shenzhen Peng City club, making Behram able to compete in the domestic top flight this season. 

"I'm very honored to receive this award. I would like to thank my family, coaches and teammates who have fought alongside me. Without you, I could not have achieved this award," he said at the ceremony. 

"As a young player, I hope to make more contributions to the national team and the club in the future!"

Female player Zhang Linyan defeated her national teammates Wang Shuang and Wang Shanshan to win the Best Female Footballer award. 

During her stint with Swiss club Grasshopper Club Zurich, she won the Swiss Super League's Golden Ball prize as the division's best player. She has joined English Women's Super League club Tottenham Hotspur on loan.

"Winning this award has been a pleasant surprise, and I hope to contribute to the industry in the future with my own efforts," Zhang said. 

Zhang's former coach Shui Qingxia, who led the Chinese women's national team to win the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup, said she hopes the 23-year-old will serve as a role model in the future, encouraging more girls to participate in soccer.

The grassroot Cunchao games, or Village Super League, in Rongjiang county, Southwest China's Guizhou Province, won the special award from the organizers.

Cunchao exploded in popularity in 2023, attracting the attention from domestic and international soccer stars like Fan Zhiyi and Michael Owen. 

The phenomenon has driven the local economy and actively promoted the integrated development of agriculture, culture, sports, tourism and commerce. It has made significant contributions to the dissemination and development of the sport in the region.