Even as Baichung Bhutia, Team India and FC Bayern Munich hogged the limelight at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, there was a significant presentation which happened during the match.
Team India striker Sunil Chhetri was awarded the 2011 AIFF Player-of-the-Year award during the interval. The Award was handed over to Chhetri by the AIFF president Praful Patel. Mr. Patel handed Chhetri a silver plaque and a Cheque of Rs. 200,000 (2 lakh).
In his message Mr. Patel congratulated Chhetri and wished him more success in the years to come. "Sunil Chhetri is a deserving recipient of the Award. I hope this will spur him on to bring more laurels for the National Team in the near future. I wish him success in coming years," Mr. Patel said.
For the first time the Award was decided in a democratic manner where all the coaches of the I-League playing teams voted unanimously on the four short-listed footballers.
An elated Chhetri thanked all his team-mates and coaches and the AIFF without whose support "the Award wouldn't have been possible at all."
"This is an inspiration to do better. 2011 has been good for me – I had earlier received the Arjuna Award and now the AIFF Player-of-the-Year Award. It feels nice when your achievements are recognised," Chhetri added.
Chhetri who scored 24 goals (13 International goals and 11 goals for Clubs) in 2011 had earlier received the Award in 2007.