Childhood & Early Life
Keisuke Honda was born in Settsu, Osaka, on June 13, 1986, in a large family of athletes. His older brother too played football while they grew up. Keisuke’s great uncle, Daisaburo, was a renowned canoeist back in his time, and Keisuke’s cousin, Tamon Honda, happens to be a former Olympic wrestler. Growing up in an environment dominated by a variety of sports, Honda chose football and followed in the footsteps of his older brother.
Honda grew up playing football with his brother and was extremely passionate about it. He never missed any ‘Serie A’ match on TV and went as far as writing an essay, as part of his elementary school tradition, where he offered a detailed description of his aspiration of being the best footballer in the world and for playing for a ‘Serie A’ team. He also wished to play in the same team with his older brother.
He started playing football at the age of 8 and attended a small local academy, ‘Settsu.’ His dreams of playing football at a much bigger level took him to ‘Gamba Osaka,’ a local youth club. Although he joined the junior youth team of the club, he aimed at their youth team. However, Honda was repeatedly rejected.
He attended the ‘Seiryō High School’ and played for two years with his school team, making small waves at the local level. Eventually, in 2005, he was selected to play for ‘Nagoya Grampus’ in the ‘J1 League.’
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Honda maintained his place in the ‘Nagoya Campus’ team for two seasons following his contract. However, his performance did not live up to expectations. He played 90 matches for his team and scored only 11 goals, which somehow put a major question mark on his future with the team and with the game in general.
In January 2008, a team from the Netherlands, ‘VVV-Venlo,’ approached Honda for a contract. However, this stint too turned out to be unlucky for him. His team slid down in the tally and became a second-division team within the first six months of Honda’s inclusion. However, the 2008–2009 season turned out to be a little better, as the team pulled itself up and utilized Honda, who performed exceptionally well. He scored 16 goals in his 36 matches for the team and performed brilliantly in many crucial matches.
As his team found a place back in the top league ‘Eredivisie,’ Honda was now affectionately called “Emperor Keisuke” and gained a wide fan following. In late 2009, the Russian club ‘CSKA Moscow’ wished to acquire him. Soon, Keisuke signed a 4-year contract with them.
The transfer fee was not confirmed by any party. However, media reports claimed that the deal was finalized at the price that ‘VVV’ had specified, which was somewhere around €6 million. Honda made his debut for ‘Moscow’ in a ‘UEFA Championship League’ match against ‘Sevilla.’ In March 2010, Honda hit the first league goal while playing against ‘Amkar Perm.’
In May 2011, he helped his team win the ‘Russian Cup’ by scoring two goals against ‘Alania Vladikavkaz.’ In September 2012, he further ensured his team a league victory by scoring twice against ‘Alania.’ In mid-2013, as soon as the transfer windows opened, he was free to explore options to play for other clubs and openly talked about his wish to play for a better club. In December 2013, in the wake of offers from various European clubs, ‘CSKA Moscow’ declared the termination of Honda’s contract without any plans to extend it further.
In January 2014, Honda joined the Italian team ‘AC Milan’ for a contract of three years. In January, he made his full debut in a ‘Coppa Italia’ match against ‘Spezia’ in the quarter-final match. In the remaining season, his performance never quite managed to pick up and his fans thought it was disappointing.
In August 2014, Honda scored his first goal of the season, against ‘Lazio.’ Somehow, his performance picked up and he was soon back in his original form. Through the next few years, he performed steadily well to keep his place in the team. In mid-2017, his performance was noticeable, and he helped his team qualify for the ‘Europa League’ for the first time in four years.
Despite his performance having improved in his later years with ‘Milan,’ it was highly unlikely that his contract would be extended any further. In July 2017, the Mexican club ‘Pachuca’ announced that Honda would join their team.
Honda has steadily remained part of the national Japanese football squad, first as a junior, then a senior. He represented his team in the 2015 ‘FIFA World Youth Championship’ and was part of the ‘Under-23’ squad that qualified for the 2008 ‘Summer Olympics.’ Playing for his national senior team, he scored his very first goal in a friendly match against Chile in 2009.
In the 2010 ‘FIFA World Cup,’ Japan managed to score only one goal and it was netted by Honda. His team won the match against Cameroon, and it was the first ‘World Cup’ victory for Japan on foreign land. Japan continued its brilliant performance throughout the initial stages and reached the knockout stage. However, Japan lost to Paraguay in their round-of-16 match.
Honda was then included in the Japanese squad that was to play at the 2011 ‘AFC Asian Cup.’ Japan won the tournament for a record fourth time. By the end of the tournament, Honda was named the ‘Most Valuable Player.’
In the 2014 ‘FIFA World Cup,’ Honda kept his form alive and scored in Japan’s first match against Ivory Coast. With this sensational goal, he became the first-ever Japanese footballer to score goals in two ‘World Cups.’ Before Japan walked out of the tournament, Honda had become the only Japanese player with three ‘World Cup’ goals to his credit.
He was included in the Japanese squad that was to play at the 2015 ‘AFC Asian Cup.’ He scored a goal off a penalty kick in Japan’s first match against Palestine. Japan lost in the quarter-final match, against the United Arab Emirates.