Japanese Soccer Team Hires Impersonator to Replace Andres Iniesta

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Andres Iniesta of Vissel Kobe in action during the J.League match against Shonan Bellmare at Noevir Stadium Kobe on July 22 in Kobe. The Spaniard will miss his side's trip to FC Tokyo on Sunday. Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

Regardless of the sport, facing a team missing its star player is normally an advantage.

Taking on the Patriots is not as daunting a task if they are without Tom Brady, while the chances of beating Golden State increase if Kevin Durant is forced to sit the game out, and overcoming an Alexander Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals should be easier than with the Russian on the ice.

Japanese soccer team FC Tokyo, however, have opted for a slightly different approach ahead of their J-League game against Vissel Kobe on Sunday. Andres Iniesta, Vissel Kobe's star signing, is expected to miss the game in Tokyo after returning to Spain for a brief visit, so FC Tokyo have unveiled plans to bring in an impersonator of the former Barcelona star.

With the 50,000-capacity Ajinomoto Stadium set to be sold-out for the first time in three years, FC Tokyo are pulling out all the stops to ensure fans who have bought a ticket to catch a glimpse of Iniesta will not leave disappointed.

The club will hire impersonator Iam Noda to be the "friend" of their mascot for the day. Noda delivered the news, posting a picture of himself wearing a Vissel Kobe shirt on Instagram.

"Iniesta has made a quick trip back to Spain to pick up his family and bring them to Japan," Vissel Kobe business director Masayuki Mori was quoted as saying by ESPN. "He will be away for just a few days and will then return to action."

The 2010 World Cup winner, who calimed an astonishing 30 major trophies during a 16-year career at Barcelona, joined Kobe in May after signing a three-year deal.

The Spaniard made his debut as he came on as a substitute in a 3-0 defeat against Shonan Bellmare, before featuring against Kashiwa Reysol. Having already missed his side's 1-1 draw against Cerezo Osaka earlier this week, the 34-year-old is expected to be available against Jubilo Iwata next weekend.

It is clearly not the first time Noda has shown off his—admittedly rather poor—resemblance to Iniesta. A quick look at his Instagram profile shows him decked in the Vessel Kobe kit standing next to a life-size picture of the former Barcelona midfielder, as well as appearing in what appears to be a TV interview wearing the Spanish giants' kit.

Another post shows Noda carrying Iniesta's biography—perhaps looking for some last-minute tips ahead of his appearance.

Japanese Soccer Team Hires Impersonator to Replace Andres Iniesta | Sports