Andrés Iniesta is 34 years old. Lukas Podolski is 33.
They’re playing in Japan, for a team in 10th place.
Dusting off the boots. Oiling the knees.
And linking up, in this alternate universe future, for a bit of brilliance.
Update: Wait, David Villa just joined Vissel Kobe, too?
— VOS USA (@VOSUSA) January 13, 2019
What’s going on over there?
China and Turkey have been poaching away star European soccer veterans for years, but Japan never quite joined the hunt.
Now Vissel Kobe is in the mix. Re-animating the Frankenstein monster of the 2010 World Cup… Contracts for Diego Forlán and Dirk Kuyt to be announced in short order.
"David Villa, Lukas Podolski, and Andres Iniesta coming to Los Angeles.
Vissel Kobe vs. LAFC at Banc of California Stadium."
I'm trying to imagine what 2010 me would have thought if he read that and pic.twitter.com/u0xVq3gxbM
— Ryan Rosenblatt (@RyanRosenblatt) January 10, 2019
So—who is this team, anyway?
From the Wikipedia, Vissel is a combination of the words “victory” and “vessel”, in recognition of Kobe’s history as a port city.
Founded in 1966. Nicknamed the Cows (for the famous beef). Owned by Rakuten.
They’ve never finished first in the J League.
As for why they’ve embarked upon this quest to wrangle the best European talent of a decade ago, unclear.
But they’ve got themselves a Podolski and an Iniesta.
Who seem to be the same Podolski and Iniesta of previous renown.
The former assisting the latter to his very first J League goal.
Lukas Podolski reinventing himself as a deep-lying playmaker in Japan and spending his later years threading through balls for Andrés Iniesta to run onto is a most unexpected turn of events
— Alex Kirkland (@alexkirkland) August 11, 2018
It’s like in the FIFA games, when you pull off a couple strings of lucky trades in Manager Mode and end up with Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben on Celtic FC—
In other words, it feels strange!
Michael Jordan on the Wizards. Joe Montana on the Chiefs.
Didier Drogba playing in China. Asamoah Gyan to the UAE.
And now, this.
Andres Iniesta just made his debut in Japan. A very weird sight seeing him in another kit than the blue & red. pic.twitter.com/L6HDzpVSXu
— AFC Ajax 💫 (@TheEuropeanLad) July 22, 2018
But here’s a theory, on the psychology of all this:
Maybe, possibly, if they go there in numbers, it’ll feel more alright.
Linking up for assists, designing set pieces, scoring goals…
As a group, and not lone scavengers looking for contract money in foreign lands.
Which reminds me, of a Japanese saying I came across somewhere:
Akashingo minna de watareba kowakunai
The light is red, but if we all cross together, it won’t be scary.
So get your boots on, Hall of Famers of decade-ago soccer.
And get on the phones, Vissel Kobe.
Get the whole generation back together, so it feels less weird.
Get yourself a Torres. A Puyol. A Klose. Lamm. Sneijder.
And preserve the world of 2010 soccer like an exhibit at Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum.
Reunited and it feels so good 😘
David Villa is to join former Barcelona and Spain team-mate Andres Iniesta at Vissel Kobe 🙌
Japan in for a treat!. pic.twitter.com/YJyDDDSbFi
— BarçaTimes (@BarcaTimes) December 1, 2018
The soccer we grew up with, to be preserved for centuries.
In the city of Kobe, Japan.