Chelsea FC defender Branislav Ivanović has been named as Serbia's Player of the Year, receiving the Football Association of Serbia (FSS) Golden Ball award at a ceremony today.
The 28-year-old Serbia captain received the award for the first time in its eight-year history at the end of a year in which he won the UEFA Champions League with his club. "This award means a lot to me," he explained. "When you are named the best in your country, it is a reward for everything you have achieved up to now. I am happy, but I want to say thanks for my family and all of my team-mates, from my club and the national team - they helped me to get where I am today. Now the onus is on me to maintain this standard, and even improve on it."
After a spell with second-flight FK Srem, Ivanović established himself in the Serbian Superliga with OFK Beograd, before moving to Russia to join FC Lokomotiv Moskva in January 2006, and then heading on to Stamford Bridge two years later. Once captain of the Serbian Under-21 team, he has now scored seven goals in 57 senior international appearances.
The prize for Serbia's best coach went to Dragomir Okuka, who this season led Chinese side Jiangsu Sainty FC to a second-placed finish in their league – an achievement that also netted the one-time FK Velež winger a coach of the year award in China two weeks ago. "Every award makes you happy, but this one will have a special place in my heart," explained the 58-year-old, who led FK Obilić to their only national title in 1997/98. "At the moment, I am working far from my home, so the recognition from the people from the FSS is very much appreciated. I am very, very proud."
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