New Hangzhou Greentown
manager Takeshi Okada, famed for his confident predictions, left
his players at the Chinese side laughing at him when he boldly
told them he was targeting victory over Barcelona at the Club
World Cup next year.
The Spanish giants face Brazil's Santos in this year's final
in Yokohama on Sunday but former Japan coach Okada, who was
appointed on Thursday, has bold plans for the future of his new
"I want to win the Asian Champions League, go to the Club
World Cup and beat Barcelona," Okada told Japanese media at the
Japan Football Association on Friday.
"I told the players and they laughed. But it's not
impossible." Having only signed a one-year contract it is highly
Okada made the Japanese nation cringe in the build-up to the
2010 World Cup by sticking to his audacious target of reaching
the semi-finals while his team were suffering regular defeats.
To the astonishment of many, the Blue Samurai stunned
Cameroon and Denmark to reach the last 16 in South Africa before
bowing out on penalties to Paraguay.
Okada's deal with the Chinese Super League club came as a
bolt from the blue with J-League side Urawa Reds also chasing
"It was a gut instinct," said Okada, whose move could mark a
watershed not unlike the ping pong diplomacy which brought about
a thaw in American-Chinese relations in the 1970s.
Many Chinese still harbour bitter resentment over Japan's
military invasion and brutal occupation of parts of the country
from 1931 to 1945 when tens of millions died.
Japan's controversial win over China in the 2004 Asian Cup
final in Beijing sparked riots and Chinese fans burned the Japan
flag at the East Asian championships.
"I told the owner he had guts naming a Japanese coach,"
Okada said. "He told me he's already getting stick and admits
it's a risk but the team has potential.
"Hopefully it can be the start of something big," added
Okada, who coached Yokohama F-Marinos to back-to-back J-League
titles in 2003 and 2004.
"I gave it a lot of thought," said the 55-year-old, who also
led Japan to their first World Cup finals in 1998.
"A job in the J-League would be easier and less risky, but
it just didn't feel right. This challenge excites me."
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