Andrés Iniesta was officially presented today by J-League side Vissel Kobe in front of 8,000 enthusiastic fans who turned out up to get theit first glimpse of the ex-FC Barcelona player. Iniesta told the crowd that he "aspires to reach the highest level possible" with his new club.
Warmest of welcomes for Iniesta in Kobe
The Spain international appeared for the first time wearing the Vissel Kobe kit with the No.8 on the reverse, for today's presentation at the Noevir stadium in Kobe, western Japan - just two days after the player arrived in Tokyo to sign his new, three-year contract.
The stadium was decked out in red and white for the occasion with a huge sign reading: "Wecolme Andrés Iniesta!" in Spanish. Thousands of fans had queued from the early hours of this morning to ensure a good position to see the new club idol in the flesh. "Thank you very much for such a warm welcome. During the two days I have spent so far here in Japan, I have been shown so much affection, and I would like to express my appreciation", Iniesta told the public, who returned the gesture by chanting his name.
"I've come here full of excitement to start work and to learn", Iniesta continued, adding his aim is to "help Vissel continue improving and hopefully, become league champions and Asian champions".
Iniesta was accompanied by Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani, actual owner of Vissel Kobe who took over the club in 2004 via one of his other businesses. "With Iniesta's arrival, the Japanese league will undoubtedly improve, as will football's popularity with children and teenagers", Mikitani explained.
Iniesta signed off with a promise as he is due to return to Spain to join up with Julen Lopetegui's Spain squad in Madrid. "Now I must fly back to be the Spain squad to prepare for the World Cup which represents a wonderful challenge for us. I will be back here in a couple of months, ready to start working hard and with the hope of improving the team".