RIO DE JANEIRO – Midfielder Keisuke Honda scored in his debut for Brazilian club Botafogo during a 1-1 draw against Bangu on Sunday, in a game played in an empty stadium because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Honda, 33, got a hero’s welcome from thousands of fans when he arrived in Brazil on February 7, but played his first match in eerie quiet.
He was photographed training ahead of the Rio Cup tie with a mask on.
The match may be his last for some time, as the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has suspended the season until further notice because of the spread of the new virus.
Wearing the No. 4 jersey, Honda scored on a penalty kick in the 28th minute.
Bangu equalized in the 58th.
Coach Paulo Autuori substituted Honda four minutes later.
Honda, one of the best players in the history of Japanese soccer, had been without a club since leaving Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem in December less than two months after joining.
Since arriving in Brazil, he has tweeted about hitting Rio de Janeiro’s legendary beaches and studying Portuguese.
Botafogo is looking for a boost after finishing 15th in the Brazilian league last season and barely avoiding relegation.
Honda, who has also spent time with AC Milan and CSKA Moscow, made 98 appearances for Japan and scored 37 goals, including four in the World Cup. In 2018, he became the first Japanese player to score in three different World Cups.