Havenaar and his dream of the Champions League

Havenaar and his dream of the Champions League
Nikki Havenaar meets his former club Horn today. (Scharinger)

Even if SV Guntamatic Ried is only concerned with the runner-up title in the 2nd football league this season – for defense chief Nikki Havenaar, today’s away game at SV Horn (6.10 p.m.) is still a very special one: the native came in 2016 Japanese to Austria – and pitched his tents with today’s opponent.

The signs for his move to the tranquil Waldviertel were actually quite different at the time. “I came to Horn back then to get promoted to the Bundesliga and play in the Champions League,” the 29-year-old remembers with a smile.

The curious background: In 2015, Keisuke Honda, Japanese soccer star and former AC Milan kicker, joined the Lower Austrians with his family business; he wanted to lead the village club onto the big soccer stage using a five-year plan. After just a few years, the Japanese influence was history again – nothing more than promotion to the second highest division was achieved.

“There is no other option”

Still, Havenaar doesn’t regret the move: “I immediately felt very comfortable in Austria,” says the son of a Dutch professional footballer who tried his luck in Japan. “I grew up in Nagoya, the fourth largest city in Japan. It was a bit of a culture shock there, but I’m a quiet guy, which is why it was a good fit.”

He also really likes it in the Innviertel – which is why, despite strong performances, a change in the summer is out of the question for Ried’s defense chief. “There is no other option but to attack fully with Ried.”

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