AFC Club of the Year: Western Sydney Wanderers
Manila: AFC Champions League 2014 fairy tale winners Western Sydney Wanderers have won the AFC Club of the Year award at the AFC Annual Awards gala in the Philippines on Sunday.
The Wanderers came away winners of the coveted accolade ahead of AFC Cup 2014 champions Al Qadsia of Kuwait and Turkmenistan’s AFC President’s Cup 2014 winners FC HTTU.
Barely three years after the club was founded, Western Sydney Wanderers became the first Australian side to be crowned continental club champions after beating Al Hilal of Saudi Arabia 1-0 on aggregate.
The fairy tale began when the AFC Champions League Australian debutants qualified for the last 16 as the A-League side topped Group H above Kawasaki Frontale of Japan, Korea Republic’s Ulsan Hyundai and Chinese side Guizhou Renhe.
Western Sydney were pitted against J.League side Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the Round of 16, losing 3-1 in the first leg before winning 2-0 at home to seal a quarter-final ticket on the away goals principle.
The away goals principle would again smile on the Wanderers as they defeated reigning champions Guangzhou Evergrande of China 2-2 on aggregate in the quarter-finals.
The Wanderers’ semi-final campaign against FC Seoul began with a goalless draw away but they won the second-leg tie 2-0 at Parramatta Stadium, setting up the final clash against Saudi giants Al Hilal.
The Australian outfit weathered an onslaught from Al Hilal to hold on to their slender 1-0 advantage from the first leg to be crowned continental kings thanks to a goalless draw in front of a fiercely partisan full house in Riyadh during the deciding second leg.
“It is a very proud moment for our club," said Western Sydney Wanderers CEO John Tsatsimas. "We had our first foray into the AFC Champions League competition as a club of only two and half years old and it was a very proud moment not only for the club but the country as well. Winning the AFC Champions League was a significant milestone in Australian football history.
“The achievements that have been accomplished by this club have been nothing short of outstanding. Did we have high expectations? Yes, but did those expectations incorporate what has transpired in this two and half year period? Absolutely not. But our prime focus was success and representing the people of Western Sydney as best we can on the global stage.
“This award and recognition provides a fantastic platform for the future of Australia to leverage off the success of the Wanderers, it’s certainly a unique achievement considering the parameters the club has in terms of salary cap and squad numbers but it certainly provides the youth of Australia something to aspire to from a youth perspective.”