Albirex star Atsushi Kawata reveals he 'did not know anything' about S.League

Kawata won the S.League Player of the Year award after scoring 20 goals across all competitions in 2016.

Singapore football team
Kawata said he knew very little about Singapore football before 2015 Reuters

Atsushi Kawata revealed he knew nothing about Singapore and S.League before he signed up for Albirex Niigata ahead of the 2015 season.

However, in just two years, the Japanese youngster has gone on to become one of the most successful strikers in the league. In the recently concluded season, Kawata bagged Singapore football's top individual honour - 2016 S.League Player of the Year.

Notably, Kawata pipped Home United's Ken Ilso, Hougang United's Fumiya Kogure and Tampines' Hafiz Abu Sajid to walk away with the honour on Tuesday.

The 24-year-old played a pivotal role in Albirex's dream run in 2016. His count of 20 goals across all competitions helped the White Swans do what no other club in Singapore football had achieved before - win a quadruple.

Following the League Cup and Community Shield, Albirex also clinched the league title and the Singapore Cup after beating Tampines Rovers 2-0 in the final in October.

Kawata said that his exposure was only limited to playing with university students back home but had to adapt once he arrived at Albirex. He also credited the team's success to the hard work they had put in in the last two seasons. The satellite club of J.League side [with the same name] had to wait 13 years to taste league success.

"I didn't know anything about Singapore and the S.League before I came here. The only thing that was on my mind at first was to just do my best," Kawata was quoted as saying by The New Paper.

"Last year, I came from Japan having played only against university students. After coming here, I had to play against very strong opponents, especially the foreign players, and I had no choice but to adapt.

"I'm very happy to win this award and, as a team, we won many titles this year. can safely say that, both last year and this year, our team have put in a tremendous effort and have been working very hard together."

Albirex, after sweeping four titles, were a dominant presence at the S.League Awards Night as well as coach Naoki Naruo was named the 2016 Coach of the Year.