’Special moment’ for Popovic family as Gabriel makes Hyundai A-League debut

Tony Popovic admits it was ‘a special moment’ for the family as Gabriel Popovic took a break from exam revision to make his Perth Glory debut in the 1-1 draw at Newcastle Jets.

The Glory head coach sent on his 16-year-old son in place of striker Bruno Fornaroli on 76 minutes as his Premiers chased a result after falling behind to Jason Hoffman’s 31st-minute goal.

Diego Castro struck a 86th-minute equaliser, before Alex Grant’s red card a minute later stemmed the visitors’ momentum during Remembrance Round at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Gabriel follows in the footsteps on his 18-year-old brother, Kristian, in making his Hyundai A-League bow under his father’s tutelage.

“[Gabriel] has made his debut, he’s doing well,” Popovic said.

“He’s trying to juggle year 11 exams and football so it’s not easy for the kid but he’s very happy.

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“He’s lucky, he’s got a top coaching staff that give him a lot of support and then you’ve got senior players that make it so enjoyable at training to learn.

“He’s in a great learning environment and it’s just a start for him, and let’s see how far it goes.”

“For him it’s a special moment and obviously for us as a family, it’s a special moment.”

An opportunity for Gabriel opened up with his brother Kristian away with the Young Socceroos playing AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers in Chinese Taipei.

Popovic, whose Perth Glory side have collected only one win from their first five Hyundai A-League matches, says he never imagined his sons running out for a team he was coaching. 

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“I never envisioned coaching them at this level,” he added.

“I never envisioned them playing in a team that I am coaching, but it’s happened.

“I’ve got the full support from the club because they see they are good, young talented players.

“They are not alone. They are my sons, so it’s obviously a little bit more unique, but we have a real good young group of players coming through.

“We’ve got three that are away with the under-19s, Kristian has made a debut this year, Gabriel has. The future looks good for the football club.

“The now is about performances and results but we’ve got a clear eye on the short, medium and long term so it’s exciting for everyone at our football club at the moment.”

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