Iniesta ready for face-off against ex-team Barcelona

Vissel Kobe's Andres Iniesta, right, and FC Barcelona's Hiroki Abe at Noevir Stadium in Kobe, western Japan, Friday, July 26, 2019. (AP)
Updated 26 July 2019

Iniesta ready for face-off against ex-team Barcelona

  • “We all feel that it is such an honor to play Barca,” says the World Cup-winning Spaniard
  • Iniesta signed for Kobe last May

KOBE, Japan: Barcelona legend Andres Iniesta is looking forward to taking on his former teammates when his Vissel Kobe meets Barcelona this weekend for a friendly, saying Friday the face-off will be “an honor.”
The match Saturday in the Japanese city of Kobe will be a reunion of sorts, with Barcelona’s current line-up facing ex-teammates Iniesta, David Villa and Sergi Samper, all now Vissel players.
It will be the first time Iniesta has met his former team on the pitch.
“We all feel that it is such an honor to play Barca,” Iniesta told reporters through a Japanese translator.
“The team, Barcelona, is special... It will be a very important match for us,” he said.
World Cup-winning Iniesta, who lifted 32 major trophies with Barcelona, signed for Kobe last May in a historic J-League deal worth a reported $30 million a year. The 34-year-old was appointed the team’s captain in April.
The friendly is Barca’s last match in Japan before they head home, and midfielder Sergio Busquets said the chance to meet Iniesta on the pitch “means a lot” to the players.
“Now he is in Japan and having new experiences. But it does not change the fact that he is a very important friend still,” Busquets said.
“Now I am giving him these kind words, but tomorrow on the pitch I won’t be able to be like this. We will fight with full strength.”
The match comes after Chelsea defeated Barcelona 2-1 in their friendly in Saitama north of Tokyo earlier this week in a game that saw the unofficial debuts of World Cup-winning French striker Antoine Griezmann and former Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong.
Manager Ernesto Valverde said he wanted to see the new arrivals getting used to playing with the team and hoped for a better result for Saturday’s match.
“I’m sure you saw the game the other day, in which they both played. I want them to play better than that with other players,” he said.
Defender Gerard Pique will not play on Saturday as a precaution due to discomfort in his left thigh, Valverde said.
Iniesta’s signing was viewed as a timely boost to the J-League, which once attracted luminaries such as Brazilian great Zico and former England striker Gary Lineker when it began in 1993 but has struggled to tempt marquee players in recent years.


‘Significant’ virus spread could thwart NBA restart, says Silver

Updated 09 July 2020

‘Significant’ virus spread could thwart NBA restart, says Silver

  • The NBA halted play on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus

LOS ANGELES: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reiterated Tuesday that a “significant spread” of coronavirus could burst the league’s safety “bubble” and cause a second shutdown of the season.

Silver said he fully expects some players who gather in Florida to resume the suspended season will test positive for coronavirus, especially as teams first arrive in Orlando from their home markets.

But he said fresh outbreaks after players go through quarantine procedures could prove more damaging.

“Certainly, if we had any sort of a significant spread at all within our campus, we would be shut down again,” Silver said at Fortune’s virtual Brainstorm Health conference.

“It would be concerning if once (the players) sit through our quarantine period, and then were to test positive, we would know that, in essence, there’s a hole in our bubble.”

The NBA halted play on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.

The season is set to resume on July 30 with 22 teams jockeying for a spot in the 16-team playoffs that start Aug. 17.

All games will be held at the ESPN Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where players will stay in a quarantine environment.

Coronavirus testing and contact tracing measures will be in place, which Silver hopes will make the campus safe for players and NBA personnel despite the rise in COVID-19 cases in Florida.

“We can analyze the virus itself and try to track whether, if there’s more than one case, if it’s in essence the same virus, the same genetic variation of the virus that has passed from one player to another,” Silver said.

“This should work,” he said.

“But again, this virus has humbled many, so I am not going to express any higher level of confidence than we are following the protocols and we hope it works as we designed it.”