Soccer: Honda ready for A-League debut
SYDNEY (Kyodo) — Keisuke Honda is “excited” ahead of his A-League debut for Melbourne Victory in their opening-round clash with local rivals Melbourne City, the former Japan international said Thursday.
Honda, 32, has been named in the starting side for Saturday’s Melbourne Derby, one of the biggest matches on the Australian soccer calendar, expected to be played in front of more than 40,000 fans.
At a press conference to promote the A-League’s opening round, the former A.C. Milan and CSKA Moscow playmaker said he was unaccustomed to the long preseason in Australia but expected the action on the pitch to be familiar.
“The football is always (the same),” said Honda, whose signing with Victory in August made headlines in Australia and Japan.
“We have been training for two or three months and I have never done (this kind of) preparation. That’s a good experience, but finally we can play against Melbourne City on Saturday. I’m so excited.”
The midfielder, who retired from international duty after the World Cup in summer, said he is still adjusting to the sports culture of his new home, where soccer shares the spotlight with Australian rules football and two rugby codes.
“I think it’s a unique country. Usually everyone is waiting (for the soccer season) in Europe and (around) the world. But Australia (has) just finished rugby season and now we start the soccer league,” Honda said.
“It’s weird but it’s unique. And I like it. I’m getting to know Australian culture…It’s nice.”
Speaking throughout the press conference in English, Honda said he was enjoying improving his language skills but was surprised to have met a large number of Japanese in multicultural Melbourne.
“Every day, the Japanese fans come to watch our training, so I’m feeling here is not like abroad for me. I meet Japanese every day. It’s weird,” Honda said.
“I think I will be able to speak (English) much better than now in, I don’t know, a couple of months. I need time to get your (Australian) accents.”
Asked what he knew about his upcoming opponents, Honda admitted his knowledge of Melbourne City players was limited to now-departed star Tim Cahill. But he said Victory manager Kevin Muscat had told him what to expect in Saturday’s clash.
“To be honest I don’t follow a lot…But tactically, we’re analyzing, and Kevin has told us a lot of things (about) what they will do on Saturday…I’m ready to play against them,” he said.
Victory, the reigning A-League champions, are equal favorites for the title this season along with rivals Sydney FC. Following a regular season of 26 matches, the top six placed teams will contest the finals series.