Seongnam players chill out with love life chat

TOKYO, Nov 12 (Reuters) - South Korea's Seongnam Ilhwa have developed an original method for relaxing the players for Saturday's Asian Champions League final - discussing their love lives.

"I have a young team and I'm trying to keep them relaxed," Seongnam coach Shin Tae-yong told Reuters on Friday before the K-League side face Iran's Zobahan in Tokyo.

"I tell them jokes and get them to talk about their girlfriends.

"I don't want them to feel any extra pressure," added the 40-year-old, whose team are heavy favourites to become the second successive South Korean side to win the tournament after the Pohang Steelers took the title last year.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime for the players. My job is to make sure they don't let the pressure get to them. If they can do that I'm confident we will win."

Seongnam, Asian champions in 1995, are expected to beat Zobahan and emulate K-League rivals Pohang Steelers by qualifying for FIFA's lucrative Club World Cup in December.

"I have a secret plan to win tomorrow's game but I am keeping it up my sleeve," said Shin, who won 15 trophies as a player for Seongnam from 1992 to 2004, including six K-League titles.

"Koreans are more used to the climate and culture in Japan. There is no time difference so we are in a favourable position to win."

However, Zobahan coach Mansour Ebrahimzadeh was confident the extra travel would not stop his side pulling off an upset in the final and reaching the Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi.

"I don't care where we play," he told reporters. "Our objective is the same. We are here to win. We know Seongnam are a great team but I'm confident we will win."

Zobahan are bidding to become the first Iranian club to win the Champions League since it was launched in 2002.

Shin was part of the Ilhwa side who won the 1995 Asian club championship but is haunted by Seongnam's previous appearance in the AFC Champions League final in 2004.

He watched from the bench in both legs as Ilhwa beat Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad 3-1 away before suffering a stunning 5-0 home humiliation which cost the club the title.

"I have bad memories of that because of the result and because I didn't play," said Shin. "But this time we have no injuries and are in almost perfect condition.

"It's been a long road to get here and we're determined to show the strength of the K-League and lift the trophy."


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