SAITAMA — Former Japan and Jubilo Iwata manager Hans Ooft and former Celtic and Sanfrecce Hiroshima manager Wim Jansen have formed a coaching tag team at the Urawa Reds in an attempt to rebuild the struggling J. League Division One club into a successful outfit.
“I think our aim is clear, simple but difficult. We need to establish stability in the selection of our first group and second group and build our own style. In the meantime, we need to start the process of (developing) our youth soccer, which will be the backbone of the club,” Urawa new manager Ooft said in a press conference on Friday at a Saitama hotel.
“That’s always a challenge but we’ve done it in the past with other clubs. So, we think we can do it again,” Ooft noted. The 54-year-old Dutchman said he called his countryman Jansen, his old friend and teammate from Feyenoord, to work with him right after he had an offer from the Reds.
Jansen, 55, said, “This is a big challenge for me because the Reds are a big club in Japan. It didn’t take me a minute to say ‘Yes’ when Hans called me.” Jansen guided Celtic to the Scottish league title in 1998, a highlight of his coaching spells in Europe and also with the Saudi Arabia national team in 1994.
Urawa has struggled over the last few years. It managed to avoid relegation to Division Two last season after returning to the top flight.
The club hired a new physical coach, Takeshi Kinoto, a new goalkeeping coach, Hisashi Tsuchida and a new reserve team coach, Futoshi Ikeda.
Reds general manager Takaji Mori, also new, said, “We believe that we’ve got the best manager to rebuild the Reds with his great knowledge on soccer including Japanese soccer. We’d like to share the same concept with our coaching staff and the front office, which should be passed on to our players to make our team a good, strong one.”
Ooft, known for his ability to build solid foundations within clubs, returned to Japanese soccer for the first time since he managed Kyoto Purple Sanga in 1998, while Jansen came back for the first time since his spell at Sanfrecce 1995-96. Ooft previously managed Mazda, the predecessor of Sanfrecce in the Japan Soccer League, in 1987-88, the Japan national team in 1992-93 and Jubilo in 1994-96.
Ooft refused to comment on the team from last season, saying it’s not fair to do so only through the limited information he has obtained from games he watched on television at his home in Spain. But the new manager noted, “We’d like to start from zero and create our own rules and our own aim.”
Asked about their impression of the Urawa fans, Ooft and Jansen both said the Reds fans are a “great” support base for the club. Two Dutch coaches added that it was hard for visiting teams to play at Urawa because of the atmosphere in the stands. Ooft said his previous teams always tried to make the Reds fans quiet as soon as possible. Jansen, meanwhile, said he felt the Reds supporters were “fanatical” and felt they were the same as the ones at Feyenoord in Rotterdam and Celtic in Scotland.
The Reds will start their training to prepare for the new season on Monday. The 2002 J. League season will begin on March 2.
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