This is not just about club soccer. Managers of all four teams playing in the A3 Mazda Champions Cup stressed Friday that they will fight in the inaugural East Asian tournament with the pride while representing their countries.

“It’s a club competition, but this is more than just club competition. We are representing our country,” Chinese League champion Dalian Shide manager Milorad Kosanovic said ahead of the start of the weeklong competition at Tokyo’s National Stadium.

In the round-robin format, the Chinese League champion Dalian Shide will meet South Korean League champion Seongnam Shide, J. League champion Jubilo Iwata and J. League Nabisco Cup winner Kashima Antlers.

All three countries played in last year’s World Cup, in which South Korea reached the semifinals and Japan advanced to the second round, while China made its debut in the quadrennial tournament.

“This is the beginning of new era of new football in East Asia. It’s a good chance to show something here, the best of East Asian football in club level,” Kosanovic, formerly of Red Star Belgrade and Malta, noted.

“We are not a national team,” Seongnam manager Cha Kyung Bok said, “But every one of us has pride from being the champion from their league. All the managers here are intending to win the tournament.

“Korea reached the semifinals in the World Cup. China played in the World Cup, too. One thing for sure is that soccer in each one of these countries has made a step forward through the experience in the World Cup . . . We’d like to play fair but with determination for a win here.”

Jubilo Iwata manager Masaaki Yanagishita agreed, saying “No one wants to lose here. We’ll play with pride and confidence as J. League champion to display our brand of soccer.”

Kashima manager Toninho Cerezo commented, “Every team has several national team players and they will compete hard. It won’t be the same as a national team match, but I’m sure that we will show a good game with high standard.”

On Sunday, Jubilo plays Seongnam and Kashima meets Dalian.

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