Touching down in Greece after being announced as the head coach for Greece’s second division side Xanthi FC, Tony Popovic is set to light up the Greek stage, with the new season starting this week.
The Croatian-Australian coach was lured by the prospect of working for a European club with an Australian owner, Sydney Olympic director Bill Papas.
Convincing him to quit Perth Glory and join his venture overseas, Popovic is prepared for the challenge of coaching abroad and the responsibility of returning his new club, Xanthi, to the country’s top division.
While the Australian coach had high hopes of playing in Greece’s first division, Popovic revealed that the vision of president, Sydney-based Greek-Australian businessman Bill Papas, convinced him to sign regardless.
“The idea was to join a first division team, but I’m accepting if it is second division. I believe in myself and know I have the knowledge and experience to succeed,” Popovic told Optus Sport.
“I feel that with the backing of the owner and leadership team, we’ll do everything we can to go back up, but do it in a professional and respectable manner.
“I’m excited by the opportunity first and foremost, then the challenge. I’ve always loved a challenge and tackled them head on.”
Currently, Xanthi’s only hope of retaining its Greek Super League status comes down to the slim chance of the league being expanded from 14 to 16 teams.
Popovic’s move echoes Postecoglou’s move to Greek third tier side Panachaiki in 2008, while he will find familiar faces in former A-League combatants John van’t Schip and Michael Valkanis, who are in charge of Greece’s national team.
He joins a Xanthi club at a low ebb in their 53-year history, and is plotting a return to the days when the club regularly qualified for the Europa League, most recently 2013-14.
At the time when the announcement of Popovic’s move was made, Xanthi’s president, Bill Papas, said he was excited by the future.
“This is a new beginning for the club. I cannot wait for the season to commence and to be with the fans in our stadium. As we navigate challenging times in the global sports industry due to COVID, football will play an even more critical role in society, and we hope to bring pride to our fans,” Papas said.