Spanish soccer star makes cameo at embassy manga exhibit in Tokyo

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Andres Iniesta stands in front of a panel showing art from the comic book “Iniesta.”

Sports-themed comics in Spain have been exhibited at the Spanish Embassy in Minato Ward, Tokyo, to coincide with the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Spanish footballer Andres Iniesta, who currently plays for Vissel Kobe, attended the opening ceremony in July, alongside Yoichi Takahashi, creator of “Captain Tsubasa,” a soccer-themed manga with a broad fan base in Spain as well as Japan.

“When I was a child, I grew up watching Japanese anime, especially Takahashi’s work,” Iniesta said during a speech at the ceremony. “I want many people to enjoy Spanish comics just as we enjoyed them when we were children.”

In his own opening remarks, Takahashi noted that he had visited Spain more than 10 times: “I discovered that there are many sports manga in Spain. I felt every work is wonderful. I was very much inspired.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Manga artist Yoichi Takahashi attends the opening ceremony

Takahashi signed a shikishi autograph board for display on the walls of the embassy gallery.

The exhibition also shines a spotlight on the manga “Iniesta,” which is based on the autobiography of the soccer legend himself.

During an interview after the ceremony, Iniesta said that he feels the manga “is well done.” He also said that he hopes more readers will pick up the manga, as a window into his life on and off the pitch.

Asked about the Olympics and Paralympics, Iniesta said: “It is the greatest event for any athlete. It is significant for every host country, too. I have never played in the Olympics, but I hear from people who have participated in the Games that it is a wonderful experience.”

The exhibition includes another 33 panels highlighting a wide selection of Spanish comic books from one starring Teresa Perales, the eponymous Paralympian swimmer, to “Mortadelo y Filemon” (Mort & Phil), one of Spain’s most popular comics that has been in serialization since 1958.

Adding to the event are a shirt autographed by Gaku Shibasaki, who plays for a Spanish second-division soccer team, and a daruma doll sculpture created by a Kyoto-based contemporary artist.

The exhibition will run until Sept. 10. Admission is free. The venue will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays; and until 4 p.m. on Fridays. It is closed on Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A panel illustrating Spanish-language onomatopoeia