RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Japanese midfielder Keisuke Honda was given a hero’s welcome yesterday from several thousand fans of Brazilian club Botafogo, where he recently signed to play until the end of the year.
“Ole, Ole, Ole, Ola, Honda, Honda,” chanted a huge crowd of frenzied fans, brandishing Japanese flags as the 33-year-old arrived at the Galeao International Airport in Rio de Janeiro.
Hidden by the pack of photographers shooting his arrival, Honda pleased the crowd by hopping onto a platform to greet them, then donned a Botafogo cap and waved a flag in the club’s black and white colours.
Honda, one of the best players in Japanese football history, will be officially presented today at Nilton Santos Stadium, the athletics venue for the 2016 Olympics.
Botafogo are looking for a boost after finishing 15th in the Brazilian league last season, barely avoiding relegation.
Honda had been without a club since leaving Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem last December, less than two months after joining.
Formerly of AC Milan and CSKA Moscow, the midfielder has stood out for the Japan national team, scoring 37 goals in 98 appearances, including four World Cup goals.
In 2018 he became the first Japanese player to score in three World Cups.
He is not the first foreign star to sign for Botafogo at the end of his career. Dutch great Clarence Seedorf – the only man to win the Champions League with three different clubs – joined in 2012 and enjoyed a successful 18-month stint in Rio de Janeiro, scoring 24 goals in 81 matches.
Botafogo’s most famous son, though, was the wing wizard and two-time World Cup winner Garrincha, who lit up Brazilian football in the 1950s and 60s.