Chairmen of all four Japanese representatives in the 2016 AFC Champions League gathered on Tuesday for a meeting to discuss the ACL 2016 Support Project, an initiative which provides financial resources and scheduling relief.
They were joined by J.League chairman Mitsuru Murai and Japan Football Association president Kuniya Daini, who stressed the importance of Japan’s success in the continental tournament.
“The biggest goal for each J.League club is to win the FIFA Club World Cup,” Daini said. “I hope that one of our clubs can play in this year’s tournament as champions of Asia.”
“We hope that all four clubs will reach the Round of 16 and that the winners of the East Zone will be decided between two Japanese sides,” Murai added.
“We arranged this year’s J.League schedule with the assumption that a Japanese team will reach the final and be able to focus on it after the regular season.
“This will be an opportunity for the J.League to demonstrate its strength to the world.”
Following the meeting, all four club presidents spoke to the media:
Keizo Fuchita (Urawa Reds)
This will be our third ACL appearance in the last four years, but we haven’t done well. Our goal is to improve over last year’s results in all competitions, not just the ACL. We’ve trained with a particular emphasis on maintaining discipline on the pitch and pressing strongly.
Naoki Ogane (FC Tokyo)
We are grateful for the implementation of this project and the cooperation we have received, including adjustments to the J.League schedule.
We’ll be facing a number of unfamiliar opponents but we want to demonstrate FC Tokyo’s strengths. (In 2012) we only made it to the Round of 16 and we’re preparing to exceed that in this year’s competition.
Teruhisa Noro (Gamba Osaka)
Last year we started the group stage with two losses and a draw before winning three straight and barely reaching the Round of 16; this year we’re preparing to leave the starting block faster. Having played the Panasonic Cup and the FUJI XEROX SUPER CUP will help us prepare for our first match next week.
Our schedule is tight and will be even tighter if we make it past the round of 16; we’ve also started a U-23 team. We’ve taken our preparations very seriously; we want to go to the final and raise the trophy in Suita Stadium.
Hidekazu Orita (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
It’s an honour to return to the ACL for the first time in two years. As a Hiroshima club, we strongly feel that our mission is to use football to bring a message of peace to Asia.
We’re very grateful for the support of the JFA and J.League. It won’t be easy to play against the continent’s strongest clubs, but we’re going to play the Sanfrecce way and fight hard one match at a time so that we can stand at the summit of Asia.