Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic has picked up yet another prestigious award in the wake of his historic run to the FIFA U-20 World Cup championship with the Serbian national team last summer.
On Thursday, at a ceremony held in the National Assembly Hall in the Republic of Serbia, Paunovic was awarded his nation's highest sporting honor. The May Award, a recognition given annually to those who have garnered “outstanding achievements in the international arena and domestic sport,” adds to Paunovic’s haul from his successes last summer, having already received the 2015 Coach of the Year award from the Serbian Football Association.
Paunovic responded to his latest honor on social media Friday, tweeting "Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'm exceedingly happy and grateful to all."
Paunovic made Serbian history in leading his squad of youth internationals to glory on one of soccer’s biggest stages. His team’s memorable run to the World Cup championship featured victories over the United States in a quarterfinal penalty shootout and a 2-1 extra time victory over Brazil.
Paunovic's duties with the Men In Red prevented him from attending the ceremony, where the award was received on his behalf by Maccabi Tel Aviv goalkeeper and captain of the World Cup-winning side Predrag Rajkovic as well as fellow teammates including Eintracht Frankfurt winger Mijat Gacinovic, Bordeaux defender Milan Gajic, and Red Star Belgrade keeper Filip Manojlovic.
The award puts Paunovic in illustrious company from throughout Serbian sporting history. Other recipients include Serbian soccer greats like Real Madrid, Red Star Belgrade, and Yugoslav national team coach Miljan Miljanic and FC Porto, Partizan, and Yugoslav national team winger Ljubinko Drulovic as well as chess grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric and gold medal-winning water polo player Aleksandar Sostar, among others.