Velizar Emilov Popov (Bulgarian: Велизар Емилов Попов; born 7 February 1976) is a Bulgarian former professional player and current manager of V.League 1 club Thanh Hóa FC. He is known for an aggressive attacking high intensity football style which brings in results and development to his players and teams.

Velizar Popov
Popov in 2021
Personal information
Full name Velizar Emilov Popov
Date of birth (1976-02-07) 7 February 1976 (age 47)
Place of birth Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Height 1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)
Position(s) Defensive midfielder, defender
Team information
Current team
Thanh Hóa (head coach)
Youth career
1982–1994 Lokomotiv Plovdiv
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1995–1996 Lokomotiv Plovdiv
1996–1999 Hebar Pazardzhik
1999–2000 Spartak Plovdiv
Managerial career
1999–2002 Spartak Plovdiv (Youth Academy)
2002–2007 Cherno More (Youth Academy)
2007–2009 Cherno More (assistant coach)
2009–2010 Cherno More
2010–2011 FC Liberika
2011–2012 Costuleni
2012–2013 New Radiant SC
2013–2014 Sur SC
2014 Suphanburi
2015 Maldives
2016 Kelantan
2017 Sisaket
2018 Sur SC
2019–2022 Myanmar U23
2022– Thanh Hóa
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

As a player, Popov appeared for Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Hebar Pazardzhik and Spartak Plovdiv. Popov has managed abroad 10 different teams in eight different countries including two national teams. He won a treble with a 100% winning record in 2013 abroad and the Group Stage in AFC Cup. In 2019, Popov won a medal from the Southeast Asian Games. Popov has over two decades of experience across the world with extensive stints in Europe and Asia, managing more than 200 official games in Bulgaria, Denmark, Moldova, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Oman. As manager of the Maldives senior and Olympic national teams, he participated in international competitions such as World Cup Qualifiers, AFC Cup, AFF Championship and Southeast Asian Games.

Coaching career Edit

Cherno More Edit

On 16 September 2009, Popov was appointed the manager of Cherno More Varna, replacing Nikola Spasov after two years as his assistant. He made his managerial debut in the Bulgarian A PFG on 20 September against Minyor Pernik. The youngest manager in the Bulgarian League, he led Cherno More in 36 league appearances and three Bulgarian Cup matches. Popov remains in history as the coach who reached the most expressive win of Cherno More against the leader in Bulgarian Championship Levski Sofia. In December 2009 the sailors defeated the blue team 4-1 in the Bulgarian Cup. In June 2010 Popov attracted Mário Jardel to the team, who was arguably the most famous name to have played in the Bulgarian league.

In October 2010, Popov moved to Danish side Liberika Horsens, with which he won promotion in 2011. For the 2011-2012 season Popov led Moldovan FC Costuleni in the Premier League Moldova.

New Radiant Edit

In January 2013, Popov headed the Maldivian champion New Radiant and won the Maldivian championship with a 100% winning record. He also won the Maldives FA Cup and the Supercup Milo Charity Shield, winning the treble. This was the third time New Radiant won the league. New Radiant broke the league points record of 53 set by VB Sports in 2010 by taking the Blues league points to 57, becoming the first team in history to finish off the league with a perfect season. New Radiant won all 19 matches they played, scoring 73 goals and conceding only 5 goals.

In the Asian AFC Cup Popov got to impressive results for the first time in the history of Maldivian football. The team scored the biggest win ever in the AFC Cup 7–0 against Indonesian team Persib. New Radiant finished on the top of the group stage with the best attacking record of 20 goals in 6 games and second best defensive record of the tournament receiving 4 goals in 6 games. The club won the group with 15 points in 6 games —the best score ever in Maldivian football history— and qualified for the quarterfinals, where they beat Selangor from Malaysia 2-0 after extra time. Popov won 2013 Maldives Haveeru Awards - Best Coach of the year award and also The Special Excellence Award of New Radiant SC for the historic season.[1]

Sur Sport Club Edit

On 7 October 2013, two days after winning the FA Cup for historic treble with New Radiant, Popov left to take on Omani club Sur Sports Club, signing a one-year contract until the end of the 2013/2014 season. Popov debut in one of the most attractive derby matches in Omani League defeating local rivals Al-Oruba 3-0. In 3 months Popov managed to climb Sur Club from 10 to 3 position in the standings and registering the best attack in the league. As a consequence, five Sur Club players were called up to the Oman Olympic national team.[2]

Suphanburi F.C. Edit

For the 2014 season, Popov was appointed as the new manager of Suphanburi F.C. of the Thai Premier League. Popov led the team to the 6th position from 20 teams in the final league table and led Suphanburi to their first FA Cup semi final appearance in club history.

Maldives national football team Edit

In January 2015, Popov was unveiled as the new manager of Maldives national team, in a ceremony held before the kick off of POMIS Cup Final, returning to the country where he led New Radiant to an unprecedented domestic treble in 2013.

Popov embarks on his first foray into national team coaching. Popov was close to making one of the biggest surprises ever in the Asian football in the world cup qualifiers against Qatar. The favourite Qatar needed 9 minutes of added time to beat the Maldives in a World Cup qualifier with the lone goal coming in the ninth minute of added time, even though there was only supposed to be eight minutes of added time. In the Indian Ocean Islands Games Maldives with Popov won their first match ever in this competition after 3 participations so far beating the old rival Seychelles 2-1. On 12 August 2015, Popov resigned as the Maldives national football team coach. National team captain Ali Ashfaq ‘Dhagandey’ and keeper Imran Mohamed had criticized FAM following Popov's decision to resign.[3]

Kelantan FA Edit

On 12 May 2016 the Malaysian giant Kelantan FA hired Popov to handle the Super League side until the end of the 2016 season, following K.Devan’s resignation after an unsatisfactory performance of the team under his guidance. Popov was tasked with ensuring Kelantan finish in the top four of the Super League. Devan left after making his intention to step aside known to Annuar following a 4-3 defeat to Pahang on 20 April but waited until Wednesday to make his decision public. Following a search for a successor, Tan Sri Annuar Musa made contact with Popov on Monday, with the Bulgarian arriving the following day to hold talks. Kelantan were in sixth place in the Super League standings with 12 points, six points adrift of third-placed Selangor.

He made his debut as Kelantan head coach against Selangor away on 18 May in Shah Alam stadium with impressive performance played more than 70 min with 10 players after the red card of Wan Zack in the massive derby draw 0-0. Popov reached the biggest win in the history of the club in away official match for Kelantan on 15 July against Terengganu 6:1 in Kuala Terengganu in the East Coast derby. Kelantan under Popov's guidance became the first team to qualify for that year's Malaysia Cup quarter-finals after three wins and one draw in their first four group stage matches.

On 27 September 2016 Kelantan FA (KAFA) chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa announced that KAFA have been satisfied with Popov so far, and have seen it fit to allow him to pick his own side proposed him the extension of the contract for the following 2017 season. “KAFA are satisfied with the commitment shown by Popov and would like him to pick his own ‘dream team’, to ensure 2017 is a successful year for Kelantan,” explained the chairman. The former Maldives National Team head coach joined Kelantan in May on what was described by Annuar as a ‘flexi-contract’ following the resignation of former head coach K. Devan. Apart from the extension, Popov will also be given full rein with the appointment of team staff and players both local and foreign in 2017, Annuar announced.[4]

On 23 October 2016, Kelantan FA chairman Annuar Musa has announced that the club have accepted Popov's reject to extend his contract for the new 2017 season, and Kelantan have no choice but to let Popov leave, one day after he guided the side to a fourth-place finish in the 2016 Super league. Annuar explained that Kelantan had offered Popov a substantial salary raise, but he cited personal and family reasons for his departure.

"The reason given (by Popov) was personal and concerning his family. For your information, KAFA (Kelantan FA) have offered him a one-year contract with a 60% salary increment, given KAFA's current financial limitations," explained the chairman. However Annuar commended Popov's contribution and willingness to serve the side, despite knowing the challenges that he would be facing. "KAFA and I want to thank Popov's exemplary service. He came on the basis of a long-standing friendship, accepting a salary that was not any higher than what was received by his predecessor, a local coach (K. Devan). "I fully understand the challenges he has been facing at Kelantan, and wish him success. He is a model professional, but maybe it is not our time yet to secure his service," conceded the chairman. Annuar ended his post by adding that no replacement coach has been identified to take over from Popov. The conclusion of the league action on Saturday sees Popov's Kelantan finishing in fourth. Under him, Kelantan won eight, drawn six and lost five matches in all competitions. An initial discussion between Annuar and Popov on the team's plans for 2017 around a month earlier had seemed positive, with the former announcing that the latter will continue coaching Kelantan for another year, but as it can be seen, the deal has apparently fallen through.[5]

Sisaket FC Edit

Popov returned to the Thai Premier League as manager of Sisaket FC in March 2017, after last coaching in the country in 2014 with Suphanburi FC. The Dangerous Koupreys had finished 13th in the league the previous season. In 2015 they came the closest to winning a major title, finishing runners up in the Thai League Cup. Popov was tasked with ensuring Sisaket FC finish out of the last 3 teams in the bottom of the table-the current position of the team at the moment after 6 matches with only 3 points after one win and five defeats. Despite the short time and the difficult schedule, Popov's Sisaket FC managed to win 15 points by the end of the first half of the season in the Thai Premier league and after the wins against the rivals Sukhothai and Thai Honda managed to climb the team out of the relegation zone by equalizing points but with advantage in the direct duels with Sukhothai and Thai Honda. The crucial away win against Thai Honda was the first away win for Sisaket FC after more than one year in all domestic competitions. Popov parted ways with Sisaket FC on good terms after mutual agreement with the management of the club stepped down from the team. His decision was announced on 1 August, after the 41-year-old officially had a meeting with the club president and managers and handed in the resignation.

Sur Sport Club Edit

In 2018 Popov was appointed as a new head coach of Sur Sport Club at Oman, who had just returned to the Oman Professional Premier League after 2 years in the second tier of the Oman League. He managed to lead Sur SC climb from the 10th to 3rd position in the standings and registered the best attack in the league. As a consequence, for the first time in the history of the club five players from Sur SC became already part of the Oman national Olympic team and already two players are part of the senior national team.

Myanmar U-23 National Team Edit

In January 2019 Popov was appointed as a new head coach of Myanmar National Football Olympic Team U-23 for this year's 2019 AFC Olympic Qualifiers, AFF Championship in Cambodia and SEA Games in Philippines.

Myanmar are regarded as an emerging force in Southeast Asia but have seen their progress stagnate recently, highlighted by their group-stage exit at the last year's AFF Cup following a semi-final appearance in 2016. The Under-23s also finished runners-up at the 2015 SEA Games, which was followed by a fourth-place finish two years later – when the tournament was converted to an Under-22 competition. There is no shortage of outstanding talent for Popov to work with, although inconsistency and indiscipline are often recognised as two factors preventing Myanmar from reaching more success. But, with six players from the AFF Cup 2018 squad eligible for this year's SEA Games – Phone Thit Sar Min, Sann Sat Naing, Soe Moe Kyaw, Ye Yint Aung, Htet Phyo Wai and Lwin Moe Aung – Popov had some youngsters with valuable experience to build his side around, along with fellow prospects Myat Kaung Khant and Hein Phyo Win. In the AFC Qualifiers Myanmar under Popov achieved the largest win in the history of the U-23 National Team against Timor Leste 7-0. Popov’s Myanmar entered the semifinals of men’s football in SEA Games 2019 after impressive group stage campaign winning against the host Philippines 2-1, Timor Leste 3-1, Cambodia 2-1 and drawing with Malaysia 1-1,Myanmar made it 10 points from four group fixtures to enter the knockouts, they have left Cambodia, Philippines and Malaysia, all on four points with one matchday left, to fight it out for the one remaining last four slot available for Group A. Myanmar claimed the men’s football bronze medal at SEA Games 2019 after beat Cambodia 5-4 on penalties following a 2-2 draw at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in the match for the 3rd place.[6][7] In December 2020, the Myanmar Football Federation proposed a new contract to Popov.[8] The MFF Secretary General U Ko Ko Thein said that the agreement of his contract extension was reached till the end of 2021 SEA Games. Popov confirmed the proposal.[9][10]

In the men’s football competition of the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines, Popov led Myanmar to the bronze medal.

Dong A Thanh Hoa Edit

After four years as head coach of the Myanmar Olympic national team, on 1 December 2022 Popov was introduced as the new head coach of Dong A Thanh Hoa in Vietnam League 1. Dong A Thanh Hoa finished the 2022 season with 7 defeats in their last 10 games, which forced the club's management to make the coaching change. Despite the concerns of media and fans whether the aggressive attacking style of Popov will be successful in a team that in recent years has been practicing a conservative and defensive style, Popov has impressed all the doubts by making a significant change in the team. Under the leadership of Popov the team makes a splash right in the middle of the season in the Vietnam League 1 recording their best start in the history of the club after 10 games played with 6 wins and 4 draws leading the top of the table league in 5 rounds in a row, achieving 3 games before the end of the regular season the main target of the club before the start of the season to enter in top 8. Dong A Thanh Hoa became a proactive attacking and aggressive team, playing with a high aggressive pressing all over the pitch and revolutionary for Vietnam League 1 dominated possession of the ball always building up from the back defensive line. Popov was elected from Vietnam League 1 coaches and team captains as the best coach of the month of April and also 5 times in the first 15 games as the best coach of the week rounds 4, 6, 7 , 9 and 15. Another notable achievement for the club was the calling of La Pham Thành Long, Lam Ti Phong, Hoang Thai Binh, and Nguyen Thai Son in Vietnam National Team after more than a decade without any call-ups. Under the guidance of Popov the team won the National Cup of Vietnam for the first time ever, finished at TOP 4 and reached another historic achievement for the club as the only one undefeated team in away games during the whole season.

Managerial statistics Edit

Team Nat From To Competition Record
G W D L GF GA GD Win %
PFC Cherno More Varna Bulgaria 16 September 2009 29 October 2010 Bulgarian A Football Group 35 15 8 12 43 43 +0 042.86
Bulgarian Cup 3 2 1 0 6 1 +5 066.67
FC Costuleni Moldova 1 June 2011 31 December 2012 Moldovan National Division 33 13 11 9 48 48 +0 039.39
New Radiant SC Maldives 10 January 2013 31 August 2013 Dhivehi League 19 19 0 0 73 5 +68 100.00
Maldives FA Cup 3 3 0 0 4 0 +4 100.00
AFC Cup 9 6 0 3 24 16 +8 066.67
Maldivian FA Charity Shield 1 1 0 0 3 1 +2 100.00
Sur Club Oman 1 September 2013 / 1 June 2018 28 April 2014 / 31 December 2018 Omani League 34 14 9 11 60 47 +13 041.18
Omani Federation Cup 4 3 1 0 5 2 +3 075.00
Sultan Qaboos Cup 2 1 1 0 1 0 +1 050.00
Suphanburi FC Thailand 11 May 2014 31 December 2015 Thailand Premier League 25 12 4 9 37 36 +1 048.00
Thai FA Cup 4 3 0 1 5 2 +3 075.00
Sisaket FC Thailand 13 March 2017 31 July 2017 Thailand Premier League 20 5 5 10 31 41 −10 025.00
Thai FA Cup 1 1 0 0 1 0 +1 100.00
Maldives national football team Maldives 28 January 2015 12 August 2015 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification (AFC) 2 0 0 2 0 3 −3 000.00
Maldives national football team Maldives 28 January 2015 12 August 2015 2015 FIFA Indian Ocean Games (IOG) 2 1 0 1 5 5 +0 050.00
Kelantan FA Malaysia 13 May 2016 23 October 2016 Malaysia Super League 12 4 5 3 20 16 +4 033.33
Malaysia Cup 7 4 1 2 9 9 +0 057.14
Myanmar U23 Myanmar 1 January 2019 30 November 2022 AFC U-23 Q 5 3 0 2 12 8 +4 060.00
Myanmar U23 Myanmar 1 January 2019 30 November 2022 ((30th SEA Games) 10 6 1 3 24 22 +2 060.00
Myanmar U23 Myanmar 1 January 2019 30 November 2022 Friendly games 9 4 3 2 20 13 +7 044.44
Thanh Hóa Vietnam 1 December 2022 Present V.League 1 Vietnam Cup 24 12 7 5 36 23 +13 050.00
Total 235 119 53 63 421 281 +140 050.64

Honours Edit

  • 2023 Vietnamese National Cup 2023 Winner
  • 2023 TOP 4 Vietnam League 1
  • 2023 The Best Coach of the Regular Season 2023 In Vietnam League 1
  • 2023 Runner-up Vietnam League 1 Regular Season
  • 2021 Runner-up AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualification
  • 2019 Southeast Asian Games bronze medal
  • 2019 Runner-up AFC U-23 Championship qualification
  • 2016 TOP 4 Malaysian Super League
  • 2014 TOP 6 Thailand Super League / TOP 4 Thailand FA Cup
  • 2013 Dhivehi Premier League Winner
  • 2013 FA Cup Winner
  • 2013 Charity Shield Super Cup Winner
  • 2013 Maldives Haveeru Awards - Best Coach of The Year
  • 2013 The Special Excellence Award of New Radiant SC for the historic season winning all domestic titles with 100% record
  • 2011 FC Liberika -Horsens, Denmark- Promotion Winner
  • 2008 Bulgarian Cup Runner-up
  • 2006 The Best Youth Coach-BFU Varna
  • 2005 The Best Youth Coach-BFU Varna

Record-Breaking Achievements Edit

  • 2023 Winner of Vietnam National Cup for the first time in the history of the club Thành Hoa FC
  • 2023 with Thành Hoa FC - the only one undefeated team in away games during the whole season
  • 2023 with Thành Hoa FC - the best start in the history of the club In Vietnam League 1 unbeaten after first 10 games with 6 wins and 4 draws reaching the Top of the League Table for 5 consecutive rounds
  • 2019 with Myanmar National Olympic Team U’23 - the biggest ever win in official match / Myanmar-Timor Leste 7:0 in AFC ASEAN Cup Qualifiers
  • 2016 with TRW Kelantan - the biggest win ever in the history of the club in away official match for against their biggest rival Terengganu 6:1 in Kuala Terengganu in the East Coast derby for the Malaysian Super League
  • 2015 with Maldives National Team - in the Indian Ocean Islands Games the first and only ever win in this competition after 3 participations so far beating the old rival Seychelles 2:1
  • 2014 with Suphanburi FC - the first and only semi final in Thai FA Cup ever in the history of the club
  • 2013 with New Radiant SC - first team ever in the Maldivian football history to finish a season with a 100 percent record winning all 4 domestic trophies / Dhivehi Premier League Champions , FA Cup Winner, Charity Shield Super Cup Winner, President Cup Winner
  • 2013 with New Radiant SC - first time AFC Cup Group stage Winner and qualified for the AFC Cup quarterfinals
  • 2013 with New Radiant SC - the biggest win ever for any Maldivian club in international competition in AFC Cup 7:0 against FC Persib in Indonesia
  • 2013 with New Radiant SC - the biggest win ever in local domestic competition 10:1 against VB Sports in the Dhivehi Premier League
  • 2009 with PFC Cherno More - the biggest win ever against their biggest domestic rival FC Levski Sofia 4:1 in Bulgarian Cup

References Edit

  1. ^ "New Radiant appoints Velizar Emilov Popov as the head coach". Muscat Daily. 6 January 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  2. ^ "Bulgaria's Popov named Sur coach". Muscat Daily. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  3. ^ "Popov Appointed Head Coach of Maldives". Asian Football Confederation. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Kelantan extended Popov's contract". 1 October 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  5. ^ "Annuar Musa accepts Popov's resignation". 23 October 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  6. ^ "Myanmar appoint Velizar Popov for 2019 SEA Games". 17 January 2019. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  7. ^ "Myanmar first team in semifinals of SEA Games 2019 after 2-1 win over Cambodia". 2 December 2019. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  8. ^ "MFF to extend Velizar Popov's contract till Viet Nam SEA Games". 30 November 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  9. ^ "Velizar Popov to coach Myanmar U-23 team in Viet Nam SEA Games". 29 December 2020. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  10. ^ "မြန်မာလူငယ်ကြယ်ပွင့်တို့ကိုဆက်လက်ဦးဆောင်မယ့်ပဲ့ကိုင်ရှင်ရဲ့ရင်ဖွင့်သံ". 24 December 2020. Retrieved 24 December 2020.

External links Edit