The past few days will certainly live long in the memory of Auckland City’s Takuya Iwata. Despite exiting the FIFA Club World Cup in his native Japan at the first hurdle for two consecutive years, the Navy Blues left-back became a father for the first time on Tuesday.
Iwata’s wife Yu gave birth to a baby girl in New Zealand while the 33-year-old defender was in Yokohama, Japan as the OFC Champions League 2016 winners. Though naturally despondent to exit the tournament after surrendering a one-goal lead against Kashima Antlers on Thursday, Iwata cannot wait to get back to Oceania to see his new arrival for the first time.
"My wife and baby are doing very good," Iwata told FIFA.com after the match. "I’m of course disappointed to go out of the Club World Cup but I’m looking forward to getting home to see them both.
"Darren White recently became a father and Kim Daewook also has a one-year-old, so they have been giving me lots of tips. Auckland is a real family club and everyone is very close with each other. I want to spend the rest of my career here."
Iwata, like many players before him at the club, was converted from an attacking player into a defender by manager Ramon Tribulietx, but can often be seen strategically supporting his team-mates up front. The Aichi-born left-back, formerly of J2 League side FC Gifu, says he relished the opportunity to come back to Japan to test himself against his homeland's reigning champions, despite Mu Kanazaki's 88th-minute winner seeing the Navy Blues' 2016 journey end in cruel fashion.
“It’s very special for me to come back to play in front of a Japanese crowd," said Iwata, who also had his own vocal support cheering him on, complete with a sizeable Takuya Iwata banner. "I never played in the J1 League so, to come back here and face Kashima Antlers, the J.League champions, it's an honour for me.
"Before coming to Auckland, I never thought I’d be playing J.League teams but the Club World Cup has made it possible. It’s always a proud moment for me to come back to Japan to play and I enjoy the challenge of facing a professional team."
Japan 2016 saw OFC Champions League winners Auckland appear at a record eighth Club World Cup. Old hands at the tournament, the Navy Blues have only been absent from five editions of the competition after dominating the continental scene in Oceania in recent years.
“We hope to be back at the tournament in United Arab Emirates next year, but we need to keep working hard to make it happen. I want to keep playing for as long as possible so that my daughter remembers me playing football."