AFC Coach of the Year: Choi Yong-soo
Kuala Lumpur: Overseeing FC Seoul’s impressive AFC Champions League campaign has earned Choi Yong-soo the 2013 AFC Coach of the Year award, becoming the second Korean in succession to win the prestigious individual accolade following last year’s winner Kim Ho-kon.
While Kim lead Ulsan Hyundai to the 2012 AFC Champions League title, compatriot Choi came agonisingly close to adding his name to the list of coaches who have won Asia’s premier club competition only to see FC Seoul lose out to Guangzhou Evergrande on away goals after one of the most entertaining ACL finals in the history of the tournament.
“Actually I did not expect to win this award the time but it’s very good for me and Korean football that I won this one,” said Choi, who received the award from Kohzo Tashima, AFC Executive Committee Member and Chairman of the AFC Technical Committee.
“I believe that it’s not an individual honour to me rather the credit goes to the team and all the staff who helped us reach final of this year’s ACL.”
A 1-0 away defeat to Japan’s Vegalta Sendai was FC Seoul’s only defeat in the group phase of the 2013 AFC Champions League, with Choi’s charges enjoying an impressive 5-1 over Jiangsu Sainty, the first of three Chinese clubs the Koreans would encounter on route to their runners-up finish.
The second team from China FC Seoul faced was in the Round of 16 was Beijing Guoan and after recording a creditable goalless draw in the Chinese capital Choi’s charges enjoyed a 3-1 home win to set up a quarter-final clash with 2012 ACL runners-up Al Ahli, which ended with a 2-1 aggregate victory for the Koreans.
Standing in the way of FC Seoul becoming the fifth K-League side to contest Asian club football’s top honours were Iranian giants Esteghlal and after taking control of the semi-final with a 2-0 win in Seoul, Choi’s side showed their strength of character with an assured performance in Tehran, emerging from the intimidating arena of the Azadi Stadium with a 2-2 draw and a place in the ACL final.