[ODDS and EVENS] The love of competition feeds Andres Iniesta’s passion for football

He scored the biggest goal in the history of the Spanish national team. His 118th-minute winning score in the 2010 World Cup Final was equal to the difference in a 1–0 victory over the Netherlands in Johannesburg.

He had incredible success while playing for Barcelona, ​​winning nine La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League titles.

Twelve years ago, Andres Iniesta was in the prime of his life as an athlete, celebrating a landmark moment in his career.

Twelve years is a lifetime in sports. But now, at the end of his career, the Vissel Kobe midfielder is still hungry for victory.

AT “At a glance” interview posted on the NHK World website on June 13, Iniesta talked about his passion for winning and his desire to help develop the next generation of players.

“Of course I want to win as many titles as possible and achieve great results,” said the 38-year-old midfielder. “But I want to leave something more.”

Inspiring and instructive

Iniesta’s Methodology, a youth football academy, was established in Spain in 2013. Every year, summer camps showcase the skills of young football players from all over the world. Following Iniesta’s highly publicized arrival in the summer of 2018 to play in the J-League after 16 years at Barcelona, ​​preparations have begun for the academy to settle in Japan.

On November 25, 2018, about 80 elementary school students participated in the first one-day training session of the academy in Kobe.

It was an opportunity for the iconic Spaniard to showcase the goals of Iniesta’s Methodology.

Before the day was out, Iniesta explained his longstanding ambition to participate in Japanese youth football.

“Of course I want to share my football style, but more importantly, I want to give them the drive they need to fight for their dreams.” – Iniesta said Rakuten todayofficial blog of Rakuten Group, Inc. “In terms of game mechanics, I want them to learn how to hold the ball, what to do when they have the ball, what to do when they don’t have it – everything that young players should do. learn to build a solid foundation.”

Mastering the Basics

Countless outstanding athletes around the world have invested time and money for decades in establishing and maintaining schools, camps and clinics. Others have received support from large corporations in order to succeed. Rakuten, which owns Vissel Kobe, operates the Iniesta Methodological Academy in Japan.

In 2018, the nine-time FIFA FIFPro World 11 selection (2009–17) laid out its mission on Iniesta’s methodology in Japan.

“It’s not just about wanting to be a footballer, it’s about thinking about what you need to do to become a footballer,” he said, retelling his message to the aforementioned youth, according to Rakuten Today. “This is something young players should focus on in their training and I want everyone here today to remember that. If Japan masters this fundamental concept, the country will be able to compete at a very high level on the world stage.”

Tough season for Vissel Kobe

Iniesta’s club is in last place in the first division of the J.League, consisting of 18 teams. In 18 matches played, Vissel Kobe has two wins, five draws and nine losses.

Fourth-placed Kashiwa Reysol will face Wissel on Saturday 18 June.

Will Vissel be able to take his rightful place in the J.League table over the next few weeks?

New manager Miguel Ángel Lotina, who took over from interim boss Luis Planagum in April, led Wissel to a 4-1 win over Consadole Sapporo on May 29 in the J1 match and a 3-2 win over J3 team Kataller Toyama in the Imperial match. Cup second round match on June 1 – before the start of the training camp break in early June.

Before Planaguma briefly took over, manager Atushiro Miura lost his job after a seven-match no-win streak (which eventually reached 11 games) to open the season.

Iniesta and his teammates are still in the thick of things in the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions League, advancing from Group J to the round of 16. Next: Collision with Yokohama F. Marinos on 18 August.

Since Iniesta’s arrival in Japan, Vissel won the Emperor’s Cup for the first time in the team’s history in 2019 and qualified for the AFC Champions League for the first time in 2020 by reaching the semi-finals.

After finishing third in the J.League in 2021, Wissel qualified for the Asian Champions League again, becoming one of the top four players in the league.

Motivation stays high

Although he has been sidelined by Vissel since 2018 due to various injuries, team captain Iniesta’s impact on the pitch can still be seen when he is there.

For example, his one-goal, one-assist performance in the Kansai Club’s first J-League win of 2022, in a 4-0 thrashing of Sagan Tosu on May 14. His goal put Wissel ahead in the second minute.

Or his first goal in the sixth minute against AFC Champions League rivals Melbourne Victory on 15 March, which helped Wissel to a 4-3 victory.

These two matches showcased Iniesta’s role as a force setting the tone for Wissel.

After signing a new two-year contract with the club in May 2021, Iniesta told reporters. Kyodo News: “I’m still very motivated to continue this project. I had a strong feeling when I came here three years ago and I still have the same feeling.

“The last three years have been difficult times… but I understand that we made history by winning the first title and playing in the ACL.”

Tough times have defined the 2022 season for Vissel, but new manager Lotina’s club has nowhere to go but up the league table.

It will be interesting to see how Iniesta and his teammates perform as the season progresses and what impact the playmaker maestro will have on their season.

In October 2021, Vissel teammate Leo Osaki told Stats Perform, a sports data and analytics company, that Iniesta is the glue that holds the team together.

“In terms of the game, he demands a lot from everyone, not only from the players next to him, but also behind him, from the goalkeeper and the attackers,” Osaki said. “In our bad times, he tries to talk to the players and motivate them so that the team doesn’t fall apart.”

Andres Iniesta helped raise the profile of Vissel Kobe on a global scale. Forcing himself and his teammates to strive for excellence is one of the main reasons he is such an important part of the franchise.

Author: Ed Odewen

Follow Ed on the JAPAN Forward website [Japan Sports Notebook] here on Sundays at [Odds and Evens] here during the week and twitter @ed_ovenand find it on the special sports website JAPAN Forward, SportsView.

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