Past failures power Sanf’s ACL ambitions
Wednesday, 13 January 2010 11:48
KUALA LUMPUR: Their track record may belie their lofty dreams but Sanfrecce Hiroshima are not about to let it dampen their quest for glory.
AFC Champions League newcomers Sanfrecce have set an ambitious target of winning this season’s ACL and finishing in the top four of the J-League.
Such targets may seem unrealistic for a team who only two seasons ago were playing in the second-tier J2 division – their second relegation in the past nine years.
But after winning the 2008 J2 title, “Sanf” have undergone an amazing turnaround, finishing fourth in the 2009 J.League.
“This shows that although there was a time when we were down, we were never out,” Sanfrecce Operation Manager Hirokazu Tsunemori told the-afc.com.
“The relegations have only made us stronger. Our players have matured faster than expected. They are mentally tougher than many other J.League teams, because of our setbacks," said Tsunemori, who is in Kuala Lumpur for the AFC's ACL Workshop.
“I truly believe that we have gained more than we have lost.”
Only the top three teams from the J.League qualify for the ACL 2010 but Sanfrecce earned their place because Gamba Osaka, who finished third, also won the Emperor’s Cup.
Tsunemori admitted his team were lucky to qualify through the "back door", but vowed to make the most of this opportunity.
He said: “Thanks to Gamba Osaka for making our dream come true. We cherish the chance of playing in the highest level of Asian club football and we will fight to the end.
“Peoples may laugh of our naivety but not me. I don’t see any reason why we can’t be ACL Champs in our first try. We will be trying our best to reach the top of J.League. If you dare to dream, nothing is impossible.”
They are coached by Austrian Mihailo Petrovic, who has been in charge since June 2006, and powered by three Japanese national team players - Shusaku Nishikawa (goalkeeper), Tomoaki Makino (defender) and Hisato Sato (forward).