Honda would welcome chance to play in Rio Games if asked

AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda said he had not contemplated about representing Japan at this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics as an overage player but admitted he would consider it if asked to go by the Japan Football Association.

“I hadn’t thought about that, but I think Under-23 players should go,” the 29-year-old Honda, who played at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was quoted as saying in an interview in Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Saturday.

“If I got a request to go from the association then I sould consider it,” the two-time World Cup midfielder added.

Japan’s Under-23s punched their tickets to Rio with a 2-1 win over Iraq on Tuesday in the semifinals of the Asian Under-23 Championship in Doha, the final regional qualifying competition for Rio.

Meanwhile, Honda also said soccer could have a positive effect off the pitch.

“Sports can send an important message. In the (second round of Asian) qualifiers for the (2018) World Cup I played against Afghanistan and Syria in neutral venues (because of security issues in those countries),” Honda said.

“It was a fantastic feeling. (Soccer) can send a strong signal to people like the Syrians who are suffering because of war. Sport can offer hope.”

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