Fredrikstad FK defender Raio Piiroja has been named Estonia's Footballer of the Year for the third year in succession, with Estonian Football Association (EJL) president Aivar Pohlak telling uefa.com: "If somebody else wants to get this award next year, they need to make a big step forward."
'Aggression and fearlessness'
The poll, organised by the EJL, was voted for by 34 local football specialists, and 30 of them put Piiroja in first place to make it another emphatic victory for the 29-year-old. "I voted for him," JK Trans Narva president Nikolai Burdakov told uefa.com. "If you compare him with the players in the Estonian Meistriliiga and also the other players in the national team, he is definitely the best. I like his aggression and fearlessness."
Estonia supporters have seen the best of Piiroja this season. "This year showed how important he is for the national team," Pohlak said. "He was not on the pitch when we lost [7-0] against Bosnia and Herzegovina and we had a nightmare in defence. We missed his leadership qualities and combativeness." Piiroja, needless to say, was one of the star players as Estonia held Turkey to a 0-0 draw.
'Big step forward'
Capped 82 times for his country, Piiroja conceded: "I think this is one of the best seasons of my career." Pohlak clearly agreed, adding that the defender is "a strong and positive person, whose personality is growing year by year. If somebody else wants to get this award next year, they need to make a big step forward. I hope that one of the young talents will be among the contenders."
Someone who will be hoping to be among the challengers in 2009 is FK Bodø/Glimt goalkeeper Pavel Londak, but Pohlak noted: "Pavel Londak may become a winner if he finds a stronger club than Bodø/Glimt." Winger Ats Purje, who won the Finnish title with FC Internazionale Turku, may also be in the running and was national team boss Tarmo Rüütli's choice this time round, though the latter told uefa.com: "Piiroja, of course, was also very good and he was my second choice."
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