Updated: Sep 23
Ultras Eagles are proud to anoint Iqbal Hussain as the Fans' Player of the Year for the 2023 Singapore Premier League season, joining past winners Harith Kanadi and Vincent Bezecourt in the hall of fame.
First set up by the supporter group in 2018, the award goes to the Geylang International player who has won the most number of Man of the Match accolades during the course of a league campaign. It seeks not only to recognise the best talent of the year, but also to signal to the rest of the team that every of their performances matters as they are being judged by the fans.
Unlike last year's honour that produced a clear winner with Bezecourt earning 6 MoMs, the 2023 edition saw three players - Iqbal, Yushi Yamaya and Hafiz Ahmad - vying for the award as they are neck and neck with 3 MoMs each.
A poll among Ultras Eagles members was then held to break the tie, with Iqbal emerging as the indisputable victor as he went on to collect 27 out of 32 votes. Yamaya and Hafiz received 3 and 2 votes, respectively.
The Ultras Eagles' decisive choice was unsurprising when placed in the context of Geylang's disappointing season. In a year where the fifth-placed Eagles lost a staggering 11 games in a 24-match campaign and missed out on their target of a top-four finish, Iqbal was one of the few leading lights that fans can be proud of.
Even though the 30-year-old Singapore forward scored only 6 goals this season, he has won the hearts of the Ultras Eagles with his exemplary attitude on matchdays.
This was best reflected in the 6-2 rout by Balestier Khalsa in August. Just as when his teammates held up their hands in surrender after going a man down and trailling 3-1 midway through the second half, Iqbal still refused to bow to defeat and took the game to his opponents by making a majestic solo effort from just outside the box before coolly putting his shot beyond the reach of the keeper. Unfortunately, his heroics was in vain as the team had one more player dismissed for violent conduct and went into self-destruction mode in the closing stages of that match.
Even in games where Iqbal was unlucky not to find the net, he never gave up in trying and kept putting his shots away, prompting supporters to back him from the stands with encouraging shouts of "Iqbal, don't give up!"
Currently on a mini dry spell in front of goal having not scored in 202 minutes of domestic football, Ultras Eagles are hoping the newly minted best player of the season could rediscover his goalscoring form in the upcoming Singapore Cup and drive his team towards an unlikely qualification to the semi-finals from a very tough Group A, comprising Albirex Niigata, Tampines Rovers, Brunei DPMM and Young Lions.