As Japanese and Asian football continues to stir to life following its COVID-19-enforced shutdown, Ange Postecoglou is approaching the coming months with a simple - and familiar for those that know him - mantra: win everything.
The J.League was able to complete just a single game prior to its shutdown in February, with Postecoglou’s and his side’s title-defence commencing under less than ideal circumstances when they suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Gamba Osaka.
That defeated followed on from a penalty shootout loss to Andrés Iniesta’s Vissel Kobe in the Japanese Super Cup and wins over Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Sydney FC in the Asian Champions League.
But with COVID-19 related restrictions easing in Japan, Postecoglou and his Yokohama F Marinos are getting set to resume their domestic campaign under what they hope to be much different circumstances to how it ended when they take on Urawa Red Diamonds in Saitama on July 4.
With it having been almost five months between competitive hit-outs for Marinos, the former Socceroos boss has been watching on eagerly as leagues such as the Bundesliga, K-League and Premier League have all returned to action in recent weeks, and the 45-year-old is itching to be a part of it.
“It’s been six months where football has been a secondary concern with what’s been going on around the world,” Postecoglou told the-AFC.com.
“For all of us, it’s been a period of time where we’ve really had to face some challenges as a society and, inevitably, it’s been impacting on our own little world and football’s been part of that.
“We’re starting off again and it’s been great to see the Korean league and the Bundesliga and others starting already and you can see the relief that football’s being played again. I’m grateful that we’ve got a start date now because that gives players focus.”
While some leagues such as Vietnam have already been able to welcome fans back into stadiums for their domestic competitions – something the A-League is investigating as part of its efforts to re-start the suspended competition in July – the J.League is initially set to return without spectators as part of COVID-19-related mitigation efforts.
This alien environment, a sample of which they received earlier in the season, will likely compound the challenges that await players and coaches alike when they return; the Japanese top-flight targeting to have its full, 34-game home and away season concluded just before Christmas.
“I can see now players can’t wait to get started and play games,” Postecoglou said.
“Obviously we’ll have a busy schedule, but I don’t think anybody will complain about it from a playing perspective because they’re just so keen to get back to what they love again.
“Playing behind closed doors will be something a little different, but hopefully it’s not too long before people can come to the stadiums.