Tokyo, Jul 1 (EFE).- Spanish soccer star Andrés Iniesta played his last game Saturday with Japanese club Vissel Kobe.
After his last match at the club, he said he had “grown as a player and person” at an emotional farewell ceremony held in his honor.
The 39-year-old midfielder was visibly moved during an event organized at the dimly lit Noevir del Vissel Stadium, in the west of the archipelago. The venue’s electronic billboards claimed: “INIESTA KO8E FOREVER” as the soccer player thanked fans and the city that has hosted him for the last five years since signing with the club in 2018.
“We take with us a precious memory of the affection and respect that they have shown us from the first day we arrived here,” the legendary player said.
The soccer player described his time in Japan as “beautiful and exciting”, according to a transcript of his speech published by sports newspaper Nikkan Sports.
“I feel that I have grown as a player and as a person since I came here,” Iniesta added. “Thanks to all of you I have been able to keep growing”.
When Iniesta signed for Vissel Kobe he said that one of his goals was to make the club bigger, an objective he said he felt he had achieved.
“I have always tried to give my best on and off the field. I hope you all feel the same pride that I have felt for this team,” the soccer player continued, adding that the last few months had been difficult for him.
Iniesta started his last game with Kobe for the first time this season, in which he has taken to the field in four of the 19 games played, racking up 95 minutes on the pitch, 57 of which he played in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Consadole Sapporo.
The injuries that the midfielder has been suffering since 2021 and the change in tactics in the team have meant the player has spent more time on the bench.
“I want to retire playing on the field and I’m ready to take the next step,” said Iniesta, who is yet to reveal what his next destination will be.
The former FC Barcelona player received several farewell gifts from the club’s owner, Hiroshi Mikitani, who presented him with a Samurai sword.
Iniesta was joined on the pitch by his wife and five children who posed for photos with him.
“We will not forget your magic on the field, the battles we have fought together, the love you have shown this city. Arigato,” a commemorative video posted on Vissel Kobe’s social media channels said. EFE