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AFC Cup All-time XI: The Head Coach


Kuala Lumpur: The polls are closed in our bid to assemble the ultimate fans’ AFC Cup Dream Team, but one key question remains – who should be in charge?

Fans from across the continent and beyond have had their say regarding the tournament’s greatest players, but the race to determine which the tournament’s greatest ever coach is only just beginning.

Hailing from Asia, Europe and South America, we’ve selected 10 of the competition’s outstanding coaches, all of whom achieved team success or historical firsts, now it’s up to you to study the shortlist and register your vote.

Next week: AFC Cup All-time XI revealed.

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Bassem Marmar – Lebanon
2016-2020
Club: Al Ahed FC
AFC Cup record: 14 wins, 8 draws, 3 losses
Honours: AFC Cup winner (2019)

An Al Ahed legend on the pitch and in the dugout, Bassem Marmar made history when his side became the first from Lebanon to win the AFC Cup, defeating DPR Korea’s 4.25 SC 1-0 in Kuala Lumpur.

Regular contenders in the late 2010s, Marmar’s team proved almost unbetable in 2019, keeping six consecutive clean sheets during the latter stages of the tournament.


Basim Qasim – Iraq
2016-2018
Club: Air Force Club
AFC Cup record: 10 wins, 6 draws, 0 losses
Honours: AFC Cup winner (2016, 2018)

The competition’s second two-time champion coach, Basim Qasim might well have won an unprecedented three AFC Cups had he remained in the driver’s seat for the entirety of Air Force Club’s reign.

He won the title in 2016, then left to become Iraq national team boss part-way through the 2017 tournament – which Air Force Club won under Hussam Al Sayed – before returning to complete the club’s historic treble in 2018.

Marin Ion – Romania
2012-2019
Clubs: Kuwait SC, Qadsia SC
AFC Cup record: 19 wins, 4 draws, 6 losses
Honours: AFC Cup winner (2012, 2013)

One of two head coaches to win the AFC Cup twice but the only one to lift the trophy in consecutive seasons, Marin Ion enjoyed an exceptional spell at Kuwait SC, winning back-to-back continental titles in 2012 and 2013.

One of three Romanian coaches to win the tournament, Ion lost just one of his first 18 AFC Cup matches, with his free-wheeling side scoring 22 goals in six knockout stage matches in 2013.


Mario Gomez – Argentina
2015-2016
Clubs: South China, Johor Darul Ta’zim
AFC Cup record: 17 wins, 3 draws, 2 losses
Honours: AFC Cup winner (2015)

Having won five group stage matches in a row with Hong Kong’s South China in the 2015 AFC Cup, few could have imagined the events that would follow Mario Gomez‘s mid-season move to Johor Darul Ta’zim.

Not only would JDT knock out South China in that season’s quarter-finals, they would go on to make history as the tournament’s first Malaysian winners, defeating Tajikistan’s Istiklol in a memorable final in Dushanbe.


Anatoliy Demyanenko – Ukraine
2011
Club: FC Nasaf
AFC Cup record: 10 wins, 1 draw, 1 loss
Honours: AFC Cup winner (2011)

One season in the competition for an 83 percent win record and AFC Cup title is an outstanding return in anyone’s book.

That feat was achieved by Nasaf’s veteran Ukrainian boss Anatoliy Demyanenko back in 2011, with the former Dynamo Kyiv star becoming the first and only man to lead a Central Asian club to the title.


Salman Sharida – Bahrain
2007-2016
Clubs: Muharraq, Al Hidd Club
AFC Cup record: 17 wins, 13 draws, 7 losses
Honours: AFC Cup winner (2008)

A former coach of the Pakistan national team, Salman Sharida became the first man from Bahrain to win the title as head coach when he took Muharraq to the top of the AFC Cup mountain in 2008.

Sharida’s side were famously prolific in the final third in the campaign, scoring 33 goals in just 12 matches, including a record-breaking 10 in the two-legged final against Safa SC of Lebanon.


Adnan Hamad – Iraq
2006-2017
Clubs: Al Faisaly, Al Wehdat
AFC Cup record: 12 wins, 10 draws, 4 losses
Honours: AFC Cup winner (2006), runner-up (2007)

Already highly experienced and a former AFC Coach of the Year when appointed by Al Faisaly in 2006, Adnan Hamad showed his quality by leading the Jordanian club to successive AFC Cup finals in 2006 and 2007, winning the former.

In addition to his club success, Hamad has taken both Iraq and Jordan to the knockout stage of the AFC Asian Cup, and returned to Amman with Al Wehdat in 2016.


Albert Roca – Spain
2016-2018
Club: Bengaluru FC
AFC Cup record: 14 wins, 5 draws, 4 losses
Honours: AFC Cup runner-up (2016)

The only man on our list not to have led a team to the AFC Cup title, but also the only man in history to have taken an Indian club all the way to final.

Roca arrived at Bengaluru with a resumé which included roles at Barcelona and Galatasaray, and he lived up to his billing as the club went within a whisker of sealing an unprecedented Asian triumph.


Nizar Mahrous – Syria
2007-2018
Clubs: Shabab Al Ordon, Al Faisaly, Arbil, Tripoli Club, Al Jazeera
AFC Cup record: 17 wins, 13 draws, 12 losses
Honours: AFC Cup winner (2007), runner-up (2012)

Not only has Nizar Mahrous won the AFC Cup as a head coach, the Syrian tactician also holds the distinction of reaching the tournament’s final with two different clubs.

His Shabab Al Ordon side conquered his future employers Al Faisaly in the 2007 finale, and he returned to the decider with Arbil five years later, only to be beaten by Kuwait SC.


Branko Smiljanić – Serbia
2005-2012
Clubs: Al Faisaly, Al Wehdat
AFC Cup record: 12 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses
Honours: AFC Cup winner (2005)

A native of Serbia, Branko Smiljanić left an indelible stamp in Jordan’s football history in 2005, when his Al Faisaly team became the first from the country to win the AFC Cup.

He went on to achieve further success in Libya, reaching the African Champions League semi-finals with Al-Ittihad Tripoli in 2007, before returning to Amman with Al Wehdat in 2012 and then back to Al Faisaly four years later.


Poll ends on April 8, 17:00 (UTC+8).

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