MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - Former Japan midfielder Keisuke Honda is itching to kick off his Australian adventure with Melbourne Victory on Saturday after a long wait through the A-League’s “weird” and “unique” preseason.
As the league’s highest-profile signing, Honda arrived in Australia to much fanfare in August, but with A-League champion Victory eliminated from the preseason FFA Cup early, the 32-year-old has barely even kicked a ball.
Instead, Honda has been through an extended training regimen to regain fitness after playing in his third and final World Cup for Japan, while waiting for the local rugby league and Australian Rules football competitions to wind down.
Unlike many other nations, soccer is a summer sport in Australia and the A-League does not compete directly with those sports in the country’s crowded market.
“Everyone is waiting for the start of the season,” Honda told local media.
“Australia has to finish the rugby season and now we start the soccer league. It’s weird and it’s unique,” he added.
“But I’m getting to know Australian culture. It’s nice.”
Honda’s first taste of league action will be a blockbuster derby against Melbourne City in front of roughly 40,000 spectators at Docklands Stadium.
As the 10-team competition’s marquee player and a 98-cap international until he retired after the 2018 World Cup, his opponents will be well aware of his reputation.
Honda, however, admitted he had little knowledge of his opponents.
“To be honest, I don’t follow a lot . . . I know Tim (Cahill) used to play at Melbourne City, right?” he said, referring to Australia’s recently retired forward.
“Tactically, we’re analyzing and (coach) Kevin (Muscat) has told us a lot of things that they will do on Saturday.
“So I’m OK. I’m fine. I’m ready to play against them.”