Honda’s parting message to Aussie youngsters after confirming Victory exit
He may have only been in the Hyundai A-League for one season but Keisuke Honda has done his best to leave a legacy he hopes will help young Australian players reach the very top of the game.
Honda confirmed on Tuesday that he would be leaving Melbourne Victory after the club’s final AFC Champions League match against Sanfrecce Hiroshima on Wednesday night.
While the Japanese legend ultimately fell short of his goal of helping Victory retain their title, Honda has tried to leave a mark on the club’s youngsters.
The former AC Milan and CSKA Moscow playmaker implored Australian kids to leave their comfort zone if they want to succeed at the top.
"[To be a] soccer player is very simple, right? Train, eating and sleeping," said Honda in his final press conference as a Victory player.
"Very simple, but very difficult to manage. I always say to the young players here 'no one can make your dream come true...only you can make your dream come true'.
“So that means no one helps you. Australia [is a] very good country, like Japan, and too comfortable to leave.
"Maybe [it's not a] good environment for athletes to be hungry for success, because it's not necessary to make crazy effort.
"That’s why I always say to young players they need to think and decide themselves what they want to achieve.”
While unsure what his next move will be, Honda confirmed he would look to continue playing as he bids to keep alive his dream of competing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
But the 32-year-old has ruled out a return to his homeland to play in the J.League.
"I would not go back to Japan for playing soccer. I don't want you to misunderstand that. Japan is a very good country... but I like challenging [myself with] new things," he said.
"Japan is too comfortable for me. I'm afraid if I stay in Japan, I don't challenge [myself] any more. That's scary for me."
Honda’s exit means Victory has now lost three of its most experienced members, following the retirement of skipper Carl Valeri and coach Kevin Muscat’s decision to part ways with the club.
And the trio are desperate to bow out on a positive note against Hiroshima, in some part erasing the memory of their 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Sydney FC in the Hyundai A-League Semi Finals.
"The last game we lost against Sydney, we can't excuse that,” Honda said.
“Maybe I always should have done more for myself but I can't go back on the past, so I will apply this experience to my future. It's important to finish well.
“We can’t go to the [next stage] but once I play I always want to win, even a friendly match, even when I play against my son.
"I’ll do my best for the supporters, for my teammates and for Kevin [Muscat].”