A year after parting ways with S-League club Tampines Rovers following an eight-month tenure, Akbar Nawas has been named the Coach of the Year by Philippine news website Rappler for the inaugural season of the Philippines Football League (PFL).
The 43-year-old Singaporean earned the accolade at The Passionate Fan Pinoy Football Awards last month after he guided Global Cebu FC to runners-up places in both the PFL and the RHB Singapore Cup last year with a depleted squad.
"I feel glad to be appreciated like this," Akbar told The Straits Times (ST) yesterday.
"There is quality in the football played in the Philippines and it is played at a high intensity. It has been a very enriching and challenging time, but it is nice to be recognised as the best coach of 2017."
According to TV 5 Manila journalist Erel Cabatbat, Rappler is an online news website that is popular and respected. The PFL, which was inaugurated last year, does not have its own annual awards.
Cabatbat told ST: I think he (Akbar) deserves the award. Akbar led Global to runners-up finishes in the PFL and Singapore Cup even though the team were not at full strength the whole campaign with injuries to key players."
Akbar believes it is the attitude of the Global footballers that earned him the award, saying: "The players are very professional. No matter how hard I train them, they will still do their own fitness work."
While the Global players have good work ethics, the tactician believes he needed to show strength of character to earn their respect.
He said: "Many of them have foreign roots, like Misagh Bahadoran (Filipino-Iranian), Hikaru Minegishi (Filipino-Japanese) and Paul Mulders (Filipino-Dutch). Mulders came through the Ajax academy and he would ask questions about tactics and training."
Akbar, who spent 15 years as a schools and national youth coach before being given the reins at Tampines in May 2016, credits his time in charge of the Stags - his first job in professional football - for helping him cope with coaching in the Philippines.
He explained: "Tampines Rovers gave me a different outlook to professional football.
"It made me think that I should be on my toes all the time as senior players would question the reasons behind training drills and tactical decisions. I have to be able to explain to them."
After leaving Global at the end of last season, Akbar is keeping his options open before deciding on his next move.
But he will not walk into his next job feeling inhibited.
"I learnt a lot at Tampines. By the time I went to Global, I was confident and not afraid of dealing with experienced players," he said.