Myanmar appoint Velizar Popov for 2019 SEA Games

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Bulgarian coach Velizar Popov has been handed the reins of the Myanmar Under-22 team for this year’s 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Manila.

Still only 42 but with plenty of managerial experience under his belt already, Popov’s appointment was announced by Myanmar Football Federation (MFF) on Wednesday evening.

The Bulgarian – a UEFA Pro Licence holder – is no stranger to the region, having had spells in Thailand with Suphanburi and Sisaket as well as in Malaysia with Kelantan.

In fact, Popov has coached solely in Asia since 2012 with stints in Oman and Maldives as well, the latter of which involving being in charge of the national team in 2015.

Myanmar are widely 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 Suzuki 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 certainly no shortage of outstanding talent for Popov to work with, although inconsistency and indiscipline are often recognised as two factors preventing Myanmar from reaching the level of regional powerhouses Thailand and Vietnam.

But, with six players from the AFF Suzuki 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 will definitely have some youngsters with valuable experience to build his side around, along with fellow bright prospects Myat Kaung Khant and Hein Phyo Win.

Photo credit: Myanmar Football Federation