PHNOM PENH – Keisuke Honda is looking forward to an “awesome” showdown with sprinter-turned-soccer player Usain Bolt in the Australian League the former Japan international said Tuesday following his first training session with Cambodia’s national team.
Honda told reporters in Phnom Penh — where he is serving as volunteer general manager for the Cambodian squad — that he was unaware the world’s fastest man could one day be his competitor.
The Central Coast Mariners signed Bolt in August with hopes of turning the eight-time Olympic champion into A-League material by the start of the season in October.
“I didn’t know when I signed with Melbourne Victory,” said Honda, who joined the Australian club’s roster last month. “It would be awesome if I can play against him.”
The first game between the two clubs is set for November 11.
After his first practice with the Cambodian team, Honda reiterated his plans to “fix and improve” the side’s on-field performance.
“I want to contribute all my experience to the Cambodian national team,” he said. “My mission is to change Cambodian soccer right now . . . but of course that’s not easy.”
Honda was not optimistic about his team’s chances against Malaysia in a friendly on Monday.
“It will be a difficult game as Malaysia is a very good country, it’s very strong,” he said.
Honda, with his trademark bleached-blonde hair, emerged as a force to be reckoned with when he helped propel Japan to the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He retired from international play after this summer’s World Cup n Russia.
While he is now an A-League player, Honda has said he will visit Cambodia for practice sessions when possible and communicate with players via video conference.
Cambodia’s FIFA ranking sits at a dismal 166th, but in recent years the side has packed out stadiums during home appearances.