AFC Coach of the Year: Tony Popovic
Manila: Overseeing Western Sydney Wanderers' memorable AFC Champions League winning campaign has earned head coach Tony Popovic the AFC Coach of the Year award.
Popovic’s attention to detail was a key factor as Western Sydney became the first Australian club to claim the AFC Champions League crown. They defied the odds to seal a 1-0 aggregate success over Al Hilal in the final and claim a spot at the 2014 FIFA Club World Cup in what was their maiden continental campaign.
Having built a career as a pillar of defence for Sydney United, Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Crystal Palace, as well as making 58 appearances for the Socceroos, the highly regarded 41-year-old becomes the first Australian to win the prestigious individual honour.
Japan women’s national team coach Norio Sasaki and Jamal Mahmoud, who left his position as coach of Palestine in September after guiding the team to the 2015 Asian Cup, were the other contenders.
"It is a great feeling, a little bit surreal," said Popovic. "It comes down to a little personal recognition, but it is difficult to accept as I feel like I am accepting it on behalf of the club and definitely the playing group that has made this possible for me.
"We are a very young club just over two years old, and it is our first attempt at the AFC Champions League and we have won it. It is a special achievement that will go down in history and just the resilience of the group, the belief when you think that it wouldn’t be possible to get through the group stages, here we are where we have won the AFC Champions League and this is recognition for the great work that everyone has done."