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. Popov played for Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Hebar Pazardzhik and Spartak Plovdiv.

Velizar Popov
Popov in 2021
Personal information
Full name Velizar Emilov Popov
Date of birth (1976-02-07) 7 February 1976 (age 48)
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

Popov has managed 10 different teams in 8 different countries, including 2 national teams. His management style emphasizes an aggressive, high-intensity approach. Popov has worked in the Bulgarian Premier League in 2007–2010, Denmark Series in 2011, Moldova Premier League in 2011–2012, Maldives Premier League in 2013, Thailand Premier League in 2014 and 2017, Malaysian Super League in 2016, Oman Premier League in 2013–2014 and 2018, and Vietnam League 1 in 2022–2024, and also has managed 2 national teams – Maldives in 2015 and Myanmar Olympic in 2019–2022. In 2013 Popov became the first Bulgarian coach to win a treble abroad with a 100 percent winning record, reaching the quarter-finals in AFC Cup. In 2019, Popov's Myanmar won the group stage and the bronze medal at the South East Asian Games. In 2023, Popov led Thanh Hoa FC to the Vietnamese National Cup and Vietnamese Super Cup for the first time in club history. Popov has coached for over 24 years in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, managing more than 250 official games in domestic and international competitions in the last 15 years.

Coaching career


Cherno More


On 16 September 2009, Popov became the manager of Cherno More Varna, succeeding Nikola Spasov. He made his managerial debut in the Bulgarian A PFG on 20 September against Minyor Pernik. He led Cherno More in 36 league appearances and three Bulgarian Cup matches. In December 2009, Cherno More defeated Levski Sofia 4–1 in the Bulgarian Cup. In June 2010, Popov brought Mário Jardel to the team.[1]

In October 2010, Popov moved to Danish side Liberika Horsens, which was promoted in 2011. For the 2011–2012 season, Popov managed Moldovan FC Costuleni in the Premier League Moldova.[2]

New Radiant


In January 2013, Popov managed New Radiant to its third Maldivian championship.[citation needed] The team also won the Maldives FA Cup and the Supercup Milo Charity Shield.[citation needed] New Radiant finished with 57 points, surpassing the league record of 53 set by VB Sports in 2010.[citation needed] New Radiant won all 19 matches, scoring 73 goals and conceding 5 goals.

In the Asian AFC Cup, New Radiant achieved notable results. The team won 7–0 against Indonesian team Persib.[citation needed] New Radiant finished on the top of the group stage with 20 goals scored and 4 conceded in 6 games. The club won the group with 15 points in 6 games and qualified for the quarterfinals, where they beat Selangor from Malaysia 2–0 after extra time. Popov received the 2013 Maldives Haveeru Awards - Best Coach of the year award and The Special Excellence Award of New Radiant SC.[3]

Sur Sport Club


On 7 October 2013, Popov moved to Omani club Sur Sports Club, signing a one-year contract until the end of the 2013/14 season.[citation needed] Popov's debut match in the Omani League was against local rivals Al-Oruba, which Sur won 3–0.[citation needed] In 3 months, Sur Club moved from 10th to 3rd position in the standings.[4]

Suphanburi F.C.


For the 2014 season, Popov became the manager of Suphanburi F.C. of the Thai Premier League. The team finished 6th out of 20 teams in the final league table and reached the semi-final of the FA Cup for the first time.

Maldives national football team


In January 2015, Popov became the manager of Maldives national team, announced before the kick off of POMIS Cup Final. This was his first role managing a national team.

In the World Cup qualifiers against Qatar, Qatar scored the only goal of the match in added time. In the Indian Ocean Islands Games, Maldives won their first match in this competition after 3 participations, beating Seychelles 2–1.[citation needed] On 12 August 2015, Popov resigned as the Maldives national football team coach.[5]

Kelantan FA


On 12 May 2016, Kelantan FA appointed Popov as the manager of their Super League team until the end of the 2016 season.[citation needed] At the time of his appointment, Kelantan was in sixth place in the Super League standings with 12 points. Popov's debut as Kelantan head coach was against Selangor on 18 May in Shah Alam stadium. The match ended in a 0–0 draw.[citation needed] On 15 July, Kelantan won an away match against Terengganu 6–1.[citation needed] Under Popov's management, Kelantan qualified 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 Popov had been offered a contract extension for the 2017 season.[6] On 23 October 2016, KAFA chairman Annuar Musa announced that Popov had declined the contract extension for the 2017 season.[citation needed] Popov cited personal reasons for his decision.[citation needed] During Popov's tenure, Kelantan won eight, drew six, and lost five matches in all competitions. The team finished fourth in the league.[7]

Sisaket FC


In March 2017, Popov became the manager of Sisaket FC in the Thai Premier League. At the time of his appointment, Sisaket FC had won one match and lost five, with a total of three points. By the end of the first half of the season, Sisaket had won 15 points and moved out of the relegation zone. Popov resigned from Sisaket FC in August 2017.

Sur Sport Club


In 2018, Popov became the head coach of Sur Sport Club in Oman, which had recently returned to the Oman Professional Premier League. Under his management, Sur SC moved from the 10th to 3rd position in the standings.

Myanmar U-23 National Team


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

In the AFC qualifiers, Myanmar beat Timor Leste 7–0. The team entered the semifinals in the 2019 SEA Games after winning against the host Philippines 2–1, Timor Leste 3–1, Cambodia 2–1 and drawing with Malaysia 1–1. Myanmar claimed the men's football bronze medal at SEA Games 2019 after beating Cambodia 5–4 on penalties following a 2–2 draw at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in the 3rd place match.[8][9] In December 2020, the Myanmar Football Federation proposed a new contract to Popov.[10] The agreement of his contract extension was reached till the end of the 2021 SEA Games.[11][12]

Dong A Thanh Hoa


On 1 December 2022, after four years as head coach of the Myanmar Olympic national team, Popov became the head coach of Dong A Thanh Hoa in Vietnam League 1. Under Popov's leadership, the team had a strong start to the league with 6 wins and 4 draws in the first 10 games. This performance led the team to the top of the table in 5 rounds in a row and achieved the club's main target of entering the top 8 three games before the end of the regular season.

Popov's coaching style emphasized aggressive attacking and high pressing, which led to a change in the team's playstyle. His coaching was recognized by Vietnam League 1 coaches and team captains, who elected him 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 during the 2023 season.

Under Popov's guidance, the team won the National Cup of Vietnam and the Vietnamese Super Cup in 2023, marking the first time the club had won two trophies in one year. The team also finished the 2023 season in the top 4 and was the only team that remained undefeated in away games during the whole season.

Popov's training methods were initially challenging for the Thanh Hoa team. However, his specific exercises helped transform the team's performance. Despite losing nearly half of the squad and two key players, Bruno Cunha and Paulo Conrado, for the 2023–2024 season, Popov led Thanh Hoa club to a strong performance in the first half of the new season, reaching once again the semifinal of Vietnamese National Cup.[13][14]

Managerial statistics

As of match played 5 April 2024
Team Nat From To Record
G W D L GF GA GD Win %
PFC Cherno More Varna   16 September 2009 29 October 2010 38 17 9 12 49 44 +5 044.74
FC Costuleni   1 June 2011 31 December 2012 33 13 11 9 48 48 +0 039.39
New Radiant SC   10 January 2013 31 August 2013 32 29 0 3 104 22 +82 090.63
Sur Club   1 September 2013 / 1 June 2018 28 April 2014 / 31 December 2018 40 18 11 11 66 49 +17 045.00
Suphanburi FC   11 May 2014 31 December 2015 29 15 4 10 42 38 +4 051.72
Sisaket FC 13 March 2017 31 July 2017 21 6 5 10 32 41 −9 028.57
Maldives   28 January 2015 12 August 2015 2 0 0 2 0 3 −3 000.00
Maldives   28 January 2015 12 August 2015 2 1 0 1 5 5 +0 050.00
Kelantan FA   13 May 2016 23 October 2016 19 8 6 5 29 25 +4 042.11
Myanmar U22   1 January 2019 30 November 2022 5 3 0 2 12 8 +4 060.00
Myanmar U23 1 January 2019 30 November 2022 10 6 1 3 24 22 +2 060.00
Myanmar U23 1 January 2019 30 November 2022 9 4 3 2 20 13 +7 044.44
Thanh Hóa   1 December 2022 Present 42 21 11 10 65 45 +20 050.00
Total 253 128 57 68 450 303 +147 050.59


  1. ^ "Велизар Попов за Черно море, Марио Жардел, Никола Спасов и гръмкото 4:1 над Левски". 11 April 2024. Retrieved 11 April 2024.
  2. ^ "След 12 години в Азия Велизар Попов търси ново предизвикателство". 10 April 2024. Retrieved 10 April 2024.
  3. ^ "New Radiant appoints Velizar Emilov Popov as the head coach". Muscat Daily. 6 January 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Bulgaria's Popov named Sur coach". Muscat Daily. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Popov Appointed Head Coach of Maldives". Asian Football Confederation. 12 May 2016. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Kelantan extended Popov's contract". 1 October 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  7. ^ "Annuar Musa accepts Popov's resignation". 23 October 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2016.
  8. ^ "Myanmar appoint Velizar Popov for 2019 SEA Games". 17 January 2019. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  9. ^ "Myanmar first team in semifinals of SEA Games 2019 after 2-1 win over Cambodia". 2 December 2019. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
  10. ^ "MFF to extend Velizar Popov's contract till Viet Nam SEA Games". 30 November 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  11. ^ "Velizar Popov to coach Myanmar U-23 team in Viet Nam SEA Games". 29 December 2020. Retrieved 29 December 2020.
  12. ^ "မြန်မာလူငယ်ကြယ်ပွင့်တို့ကိုဆက်လက်ဦးဆောင်မယ့်ပဲ့ကိုင်ရှင်ရဲ့ရင်ဖွင့်သံ". 24 December 2020. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  13. ^ "Български треньор с исторически успех в Азия". 21 August 2023. Retrieved 21 August 2023.
  14. ^ "Български треньор изведе отбора си до триумф в Суперкупата на Виетнам". 7 October 2023. Retrieved 7 October 2023.