Awards are central to the world of football. Clubs and players compete for league cups, most valuable player honors, and a host of other distinctions both on and off the pitch. However, some clubs are more active than others in singling out both players and supporters who have made a meaningful contribution to the sport of football and its surrounding community.
By many measures, Ebbsfleet United owner Abdulla Al Humaidi sets the example of how this can look in practice. Read on for a look at how the owner is helping to recognize the efforts of players, fans, and others who have contributed to the club’s success.
Abdulla Al Humaidi Polls Fans
One high-profile award that has become hotly anticipated year after is the Ebbsfleet United Supporters’ Player of the Season Award. In contrast with other awards, that may be selected by a panel of league judges or other officials, this award draws votes directly from the fans of the football team, allowing them to weigh in on who is most deserving. This style of the award not only serves to single out players who have made a direct impact on those who support their team, but it also appeals to the very people who may be most familiar with the players’ work.
The fan-sourced award has had more than 40 winners over the course of its long history. Past recipients have spanned across many positions on the pitch and have often gone to players who have best exemplified the club’s spirit of competitiveness and its storied past. Playing time is also a consideration in the award, as those players who see the most time on the pitch have often been known to make the greatest impact on the hearts of fans. Ultimately, however, it is the fans themselves that determine the criteria for the honor, as they bet on football and conduct voting practices sometimes shifting year to year depending on the impact that players have made on the club and across the league.
Jack Paxman Receives Honors
Jack Paxman was recently named as the winner of the 2020/2021 season Ebbsfleet United Supporters’ Player of the Season Award. The manner in which the award was set up by owner Abdulla Al Humaidi allowed fans extreme freedom to pick the player who they felt made the biggest impact over the past season, and the choice didn’t disappoint. The 27-year-old Paxman holds the distinction of being the first player since the 2013/2014 season to receive the award in his first season with the club. This was perhaps to be expected since the midfielder made 22 on-pitch appearances in the shortened season and accrued more playing time than any other Ebbsfleet United player.
The award was given to Paxman during a recent beer garden event at the club stadium which saw a moderate-sized gathering of masked and socially distanced attendees. The emotional event capped off one of the strangest years in league history, with a shortened season and various other precautions taken in light of the global pandemic. Despite the year’s context, the midfielder’s talent and drive to succeed helped single him out in the club’s matches, a fact touched upon by manager Dennis Kutrieb during the ceremony.
“Jack Paxman is an example of astonishing performances,” said Kutrieb. “He was one of only a few players who came in for a trial and I was convinced after the first session… he has some special abilities and I never saw him before or did any video research on him. He’s a good boy on the pitch but to be fair, he’s a very lovely character off the pitch as well and that’s not easy to find! The best thing is, there is still a lot of space to improve and I’m sure we’ll see a better Jack Paxman next season! A luxury situation for me as a manager and for us as a club! Well done son!”
Abdulla Al Humaidi Honors Community Members
Beyond the Player of the Season award, another distinction overseen by owner Abdulla Al Humaidi has helped to single out community contributors to the Fleet’s success off the pitch. The Bruce Sewell Award, named for the club’s former skipper who passed away in 2010, was set up to honor individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the Fleet. Criteria for the award can take many forms but it often focuses on a person who is active in their community to help lift others up and spread the charitable spirit of Ebbsfleet United.
Since the previous season was cut short by the global pandemic, the 2019/2020 award was recently announced and given to Chris Judge for a range of volunteer activities. This has included work completed around the grounds to prepare the stadium for the season, including preparing the old club offices for use as the Trust bar. He also helped set up the office when it was moved from The Old Boardroom.
Walking Football League
Perhaps even more impactful, however, has been Chris Judge’s work to set up the Walking Football section of Ebbsfleet United. The club-sponsored group focuses on the fast-growing sport of walking football which now boasts thousands of participants across the UK. As the name implies, the sport is very similar to traditional football, but with some key rule changes. Most notable amongst these is that participants are barred from running during a match and must instead walk while on the pitch.
The sport has become a sensation, in part, because it allows older sports enthusiasts to participate in playing football once more. In doing so, they not only are able to promote their own physical fitness, but they can also rejoin a community of fans who want to engage with one another over the friendly competition made possible by a match of football. Matches are often organized by age divisions, with 50+, 60+, and 70+ being popular ways to match up players. By organizing a section for supporters of Ebbsfleet United, Chris Judge is helping to make a meaningful impact on the physical and social wellbeing of his fellow Fleet fans.
While there are numerous league-wide honors intended for players, Ebbsfleet United has gone out of its way to create its own meaningful practices for singling out the contributions of club players and supporters. Under the guidance of owner Abdulla Al Humaidi, the club has focused on the contributions of individuals who have made a meaningful impact on the sport and the broader community. As the league year continues, the search will once again be on for players and supporters who will earn these coveted awards in the upcoming season.
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