Football: Andres Iniesta excited by Japan challenge, hopes to boost league's standing

Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta said he wants to help grow the J-League after signing for Vissel Kobe on Thursday. The 34-year-old, a four-time UEFA Champions League winner with Barca and a World Cup winner with Spain, was unveiled by the Japanese club at a press conference at a Tokyo hotel. "This is a very important challenge for me and my career. Hopefully the J-League will spread in Asia and I'd like to help with that," Iniesta said. (Andres Iniesta, right, and Vissel chairman Hiroshi Mikitani) The Spaniard was presented by Vissel chairman Hiroshi Mikitani, who is also CEO of online shopping giant Rakuten Inc., the current shirt sponsor of Barcelona. "Iniesta is a top global player. He will raise Japanese football's profile globally," said Mikitani. Iniesta, who won nine La Liga titles and three Club World Cups in his 22 years at Barcelona, said "Japan is a great country and has a great culture." The midfielder, who is in Spain's 23-man squad for the World Cup finals in Russia in June and July, is believed to have agreed a three-year contract worth around 3 billion yen ($27.3 million) a year. "There were other clubs who showed interest in me and I'd like to thank them as well," Iniesta said. "They (Vissel) have great confidence in me and that was a huge reason for signing here." "The reason I chose Vissel Kobe is because their project interests me. They trust me as player and person. I want to get used to Japan as fast as possible. I love everything about the country." Related news: Football: Fernando Torres wants to play in Japan: report Iniesta, who scored the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final, said he respected Japanese football and the country's players "are of really high quality." "Japanese players are intelligent, play combination football," he said. "I know the J-League well, I know the Japanese national team well. I want to contribute to the club playing the way I know; it's why I came to Japan." (Over 300 journalists gathered for the announcement) After the press conference, Mikitani and Iniesta moved to Tokyo Dome, where the footballer was introduced to the crowd before the start of the pro baseball game between the Rakuten Eagles and Orix Buffaloes and had his picture taken with the Eagles' players. Iniesta will meet fans at Kobe's Noevir Stadium on Saturday. Vissel signed Lukas Podolski last year, although the former Germany international is out until the end of June due to a calf injury. The club are currently sixth in the J-League first-division. (Iniesta scores in the final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa)

32 minutes ago | KYODO NEWS

Olympics: 2020 organizers propose 288,000 yen ticket price cap

The organizing committee for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games proposed at a ticket sales strategy meeting Tuesday to set a 288,000 yen (about $2,600) cap on entry prices for the Games' opening ceremony. The organizers proposed the ceiling for the ceremonies and competitions at a 14-member meeting, but did not announce any tangible results after several suggested that the price range of the tickets should be wider to accommodate the needs of customers. While organizers are hoping to offer affordable tickets for elementary school students in the 1,000-2,020 yen price range, significantly higher-priced tickets targeted at wealthy communities will also be made available. (Japan's new National Stadium, the main venue for the 2020 Summer Olympics, under construction in Tokyo) "We couldn't draw a conclusion. We discussed about creating a bigger gap (in pricing)," said Sadahiko Kano, who heads the ticketing strategy panel. The proposed ceiling for tickets for the Paralympic Games opening ceremony is 144,100 yen. Admission prices for Olympic events are said to start at 2,000 yen, with Paralympic events starting at 1,000 yen, according to sources close to the matter. According to sources, the price of tickets for the Olympic opening ceremony is similar to the cost of tickets for the 2012 London Games, but the cost of its sister ceremony was set higher than the 2016 Rio Paralympics to increase the prestige of the multi-sport event for athletes with disabilities. The organizing committee aims to gain approval for ticket prices at the International Olympic Committee board of directors meeting in July, with general sales to the public expected to start sometime next summer.

May 15, 2018 | KYODO NEWS

Partners