AFC-Kuala Lumpur - Winning top honours at the AFC Player of the Year Awards is the ultimate accolade for players, coaches, teams and officials who strive for excellence across the Asian continent. The countdown to the 2003 Awards begins today with the AFC announcing the nominees for this year's gala event on December 10, 2003 at the Sheraton Imperial, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For the first time in AFC history, the Awards are being held within a calendar year, ensuring a closer focus on the performances of 2003. There are three nominees for each category. With Asian football reaching unprecedented heights over the past year, the quality of nominees in 2003 is higher than ever before. AFC PLAYER OF THE YEAR Mehdi Mahdavikia (Hamburg and IR Iran) - Led goal assist charts in helping Hamburg to fourth in the Bundesliga and German League Cup glory. Maksim Shatskikh (Dynamo Kiev and Uzbekistan) - Top goalscorer in Ukraine League and scored in Kiev's 2-1 Champions League win over Arsenal. Therdsak Chaiman (BEC Tero Sasana and Thailand) - AFC Champions League MVP, Asean Club Championship MVP and prolific goalscorer. AFC YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR Younis Mahmoud (Al Talaba and Iraq) - Young striker has established himself as an integral part of Iraqi national and Olympic teams. Yoshito Okubo (Cerezo Osaka and Japan) - Free-scoring striker is among the leading goal-scorers in J-League and a national team regular. Ismail Mattar (Al Wahda and UAE) - Key part of his country’s football set-up at national, Olympic and under-20 levels. AFC COACH OF THE YEAR Cha Kyung-bok (Seongnam) – Led Seongnam to third straight K-League title. Farhad Kazemi (Sepahan) – Sepahan became first team from outside Tehran to win Iran Pro League. Ri Song-gun (DPR Korea women's team) – Coached DPR Korea to second straight AFC Women's Championship title. AFC WOMEN'S PLAYER OF THE YEAR Ri Kum-suk (DPR Korea) - Scored 15 goals as DPR Korea defended AFC Women's Championship title. Mio Otani (Japan) - Scored eight-minute hat-trick at FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003. Bai Jie (China) - 'Lady Roberto Carlos', converted from defender to striker, helped China to quarter-finals of FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003. AFC NATIONAL TEAM OF THE YEAR Oman national team - Asian Cup, China 2004 qualifiers, top of Group E. Iraq national team - Asian Cup, China 2004 qualifiers, top of Group F. Kuwait national team - Asian Cup, China 2004 qualifiers, top of Group B. AFC CLUB OF THE YEAR Al Ain (United Arab Emirates) - Inaugural AFC Champions League winners. Sepahan (IR Iran) - First-time Iran Pro League champions. Seongnam Chunma (Korea Republic) - Third straight K-League title. AFC WOMEN'S TEAM OF THE YEAR China national team - FIFA Women's World Cup USA 2003 quarter-finals. DPR Korea national team - AFC Women's Championship winners. Korea Republic national team – Third in AFC Women's Championship. AFC FUTSAL TEAM OF THE YEAR IR Iran - AFC Futsal Championship 2003 champions. Japan - AFC Futsal Championship 2003 runners-up. Thailand - AFC Futsal Championship 2003 third place. AFC MATCH OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR Moradi Masoud (Referee, IR Iran) - FIFA Confederations Cup 2003. Liu Teijun (Assistant Referee, China) - FIFA World Youth Championship 2003. Shamsul Maidin (Referee, Singapore) - FIFA World Youth Championship 2003. Other awards to be presented on the night are AFC Fair Play Award and AFC Photograph of the Year.