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China Daily Website

Getting hang of Hangzhou

Updated: 2012-03-06 08:13
By Tang Zhe and Chen Xiangfeng ( China Daily)

China Daily will provide all-round coverage of the upcoming Chinese Super League this week. This first section is focused on perspectives from some of the foreign coaches in the league, as Tang Zhe and Chen Xiangfeng report.

On paper, once big-spending Hangzhou Greentown is not regarded as a contender for the Chinese Super League (CSL) championship this season. However, its new Japanese coach, Takeshi Okada, does not buy into the theory that money brings success. The former Japan national team coach is confident his young team, which struggled to finish in eighth place last season, will bounce back and be competitive for the title.

"I have enough trust in my team. It's true we are not a rich team, but it would be a more significant achievement at the end of the season if we win the title," said Okada, who left Japan's national team after leading it to the last 16 at the 2010 World Cup.

Okada and Hangzhou face a tough task this season with defending champion Guangzhou Evergrande continuing to splash its money around on the transfer market while neighbor Shanghai Shenhua has signed the biggest star in CSL history - French striker Nicolas Anelka - and former Fulham and Monaco manager Jean Tigana.

But the 55-year-old Japanese shrugged off the pressure and said some clubs had signed foreign players for unrealistic prices.

"It's a good thing that the league has some good players, especially some world-class players. It will help draw extra attention to the league," Okada said. "But some of these players are too expensive. I don't think it's a good thing."

Apart from a number of imports from Brazil and South Korea, Okada will have to depend on a core of young, local players, who were picked up from the reserve team.

"We have some young players with huge potential. Two or three of them will become key parts of the team in the coming years."

Okada made Japan cringe in the buildup to the 2010 World Cup by sticking to his audacious target of reaching the semifinals while his team was 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.

Although he has only signed a 1-year contract, Okada appears ready to settle in Hangzhou.

"I have family here to support me. But, I will not ask (my wife) to do Japanese cuisine. I like the Chinese food. It tastes great," said Okada, who coached Yokohama F-Marinos to back-to-back J-League titles in 2003 and 2004.

"I will also have a Chinese teacher to teach me Chinese after the season begins. Actually in Japan, I read some classical Chinese novels (in Japanese). They help me a lot in understanding Chinese culture.

"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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