NIGEL Boogaard has experienced three Asian Champions League campaigns and is adamant there are few challenges in football like it.
The Jets take on Indonesian champions Persija Jakarta at McDonald Jones Stadium on Tuesday in the first of two sudden death play-offs for a place in the prestigious 32 team event.
Victory over Persija will set up a clash with defending ACL champions Kashima Antlers in Japan the following Tuesday for a spot in Group E alongside Johor Darul Ta'zim (Malaysia), Gyeongnam FC (South Korea) and another play-off winner - likely to be Shandong Luneng (China).
Boogaard has previously represented Central Coast and Adelaide in the continental competition.
He made five appearances for the Mariners in 2009, the same year the Jets last competed in Asia, and played 10 games for Adelaide across 2011 and 2013.
“As an Aussie footballer playing in the A-League, apart from finals series, it is where you want to be,” Boogaard said. “You are up against players who are unknown. Coming up against different opponents and having to deal with travel and some big crowds and hostile environments, it’s what you want to do as a footballer.”
Persija, who arrived in Newcastle on Sunday, accounted for Singapore United 3-1.
“It’s going to be tough,” Boogaard said. “The coaching staff will analyses and assess them and come up with a game plan on how to counteract what they bring. For us it is about doing what we do best and let them worry about us.”
The clash against Persija is five days after 1-1 draw with Wellington in the A-League left the Jets eight points adrift of the top six. They back up against Melbourne City on Friday.
“It re-energises the group as well,” Boogaard said. “There might be players who think they are not really getting an opportunity to play, but there is a heavy schedule coming up. Everyone in our squad will be relied upon. Hopefully Tuesday night is a positive result and off the back of that we can find some form in the league.”
Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna said it was a great opportunity to show what Newcastle could do on a grand stage.
“The Jets haven’t been involved for 10 years now,” McKinna said. “We are still hoping we get in the A-League finals, but it could be that the champions league is the carrot for us. Some of these boys may get another chance to play in the Asian Champions League again. Especially boys who have ambition to go to Asia and play, this is a platform for them.”
More than 3000 tickets for the game had been sold before the weekend and McKinna is hoping for a crowd of about 6000.
“We have dropped the prices to make it as affordable as possible,” McKinna said. “It’s $20 for general admission and $10 for members. Ticket sales have been going well. Members have to buy a ticket and that is why we have given them a special offer. The game kicks off at 7pm which will help with it being a school night.”
“We are representing Newcastle and the region. We have over 140 business who have contributed $1000 and that is why we have Newcastle on the front of the shirts. We are only allowed one sponsor and it’s Newcastle. Even though it is only a qualifier, these games are watched by millions of people all over Asia. We need to make it as intimidating as possible.”