Bayern Munich star David Alaba has been named the Austrian Sportsman of the Year for 2013, becoming the first footballer to win the award since Toni Polster in 1997.
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Alaba, 21, has already been named Austrian Footballer of the Year twice, but the Sports Personality of the Year award -- in a country dominated by downhill skiers and ski-jumpers -- represents a major achievement.
“David Alaba deserves that accolade. He is one of the best people I have met in my entire career,” Bayern coach Pep Guardiola said.
The left-back could not make Thursday night’s ceremony, with Bayern currently preparing for their clash with Hoffenheim this weekend, so the award was presented by Bayern teammate, and European Player of the Year, Franck Ribery in a video link-up from Munich.
In an interview published on the Bayern Munich website before the award show, Alaba said: “It’s certainly all happened very quickly. I know I’m living a dream held by lots of young people, and I’m living my personal dream.
“I’m very thankful and obviously I do have to pinch myself every now and then, because I can hardly believe it’s all true. I have good people around me who do the pinching for me from time to time -- it helps me keep my feet on the ground.”
Alaba said his popularity in Austria has turned his life upside down.
“Just taking a stroll isn’t as easy as it was. A lot of fun things happen around me, some of them quite moving,” he said, before describing an incident that occurred during a visit to the presidential residence last summer.
“There was a school class in front of me. The boys and girls were standing in line and I said hello to all of them -- and one of them started crying for joy. You don’t forget something like that. I’m grateful the Austrian nation is so united behind me, and I’m always trying to give something back.”
Meanwhile, Arjen Robben has said that he does not expect to start every game for Bayern this season.
“We have seven top players for only four positions in our attack -- this [a place on the bench] is only a matter of time,” he told FAZ.
“Until now, we have had a lot of injuries. That’s why it is good that we have such depth in our squad. But, of course, there will come a time when everyone is fit to play. I don’t think that’s bad. To rest on the bench is not a problem.”
Speaking about the change since Jupp Heynckes was replaced by Pep Guardiola in the summer, Robben said that, while the new coach has given the team a push, the former Barcelona boss had not completely changed the way Bayern play.
“You don’t have to exaggerate it. Of course, he changed things a bit, but he has not changed FC Bayern,” he said.
Robben, 29, is under contract at Bayern until 2015 and is confident that he still has a few good years left in him.
“I have the feeling there are still two, three, four top years left in me, especially with this team,” the Netherlands international said.