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- Andres Iniesta left Barcelona after 17 years with the club in May join Japan’s Vissel Kobe.
- Upon his arrival, Iniesta instantly became one of the biggest draws in the J1 League, prompting a sellout crowd for the club’s upcoming road game against FC Tokyo.
- Unfortunately, Iniesta won’t be able to make the match against FC Tokyo, so the opposing club hired an impersonator to attend the game in his stead.
After a career with Barcelona that spanned 17 years and countless trophies, Andres Iniesta decided in May to head out to Japan for the final years of his playing career, signing with the club Vissel Kobe for a reported $30 million a year on a three-year deal.
It’s a quality a payday for the aging star, and it comes deserved. Upon landing, he immediately became one of the biggest draws in J1 League, as he looked to lead his new club to a top-three finish for the first time in team history.
But that newfound interest in the club now comes with an intended and hilarious consequence.
Vissel Kobe is set to travel to face FC Tokyo on Sunday, and according to ESPN’s John Duerden, the home team had sold out its stadium for the first time in three years in anticipation of the big match and FC Tokyo’s first chance to take on the Spanish superstar.
Unfortunately, Iniesta won’t be there for the match.
“Iniesta has made a quick trip back to Spain to pick up his family and bring them to Japan,” Vissel Kobe business director Masayuki Mori told ESPN FC. “He will be away for just a few days and will then return to action.”
Thankfully FC Tokyo has come up with a plan to appease fans that had come anticipating Iniesta – hiring an Iniesta impersonator Iam Noda to attend the match as a “friend” of their mascot.
Judging by his Instagram feed, Noda is excited and ready to take on the role.
FC Tokyo and Vissel Kobe will be the second- and fifth-ranked teams in the J1 League respectively when they meet on Sunday, so it should be a solid match even without Iniesta on the pitch.