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September 26, 2020

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Passion still strong in ageless wonder ‘King Kazu’

KAZUYOSHI Miura, the 53-year-old Japanese footballer known as “King Kazu,” proved Wednesday he was worthy of his crown after setting another record in a J.League first-division match.

Miura was in the starting line-up for Yokohama FC’s clash against Kawasaki Frontale, and at 53 years, six months and 28 days old easily smashed the record for oldest-ever J.League first division starter set by Masashi Nakayama in 2012.

Nakayama was a comparative spring chicken when he set the record aged just 45.

Wednesday’s appearance was Kazu’s first in a J-1 match since 2007 and garnered plenty of attention

“Impressive! Kazu is my hero,” one of his fans tweeted. “Thanks to him, I became a football fan. He’s forever young.”

Setting records has become routine for Miura, who is also recognized by Guinness as the world’s oldest player to score a competitive league goal.

However, the forward plays on simply for his lifelong love of the game which led to him moving to Brazil, aged 15, to pursue a professional career.

“I am not that conscious about making records of being the oldest,” Miura said. “This is just a simple milestone and a result (of what I have done).”

“My feelings towards soccer and my aspirations that I want to have success in soccer haven’t changed since I became a professional player in Brazil in 1986. The passion has not changed either,” he added.

Miura went to Brazil as a teenager because Japan didn’t have a professional league for him to play in.

The J.League was only formed in 1992, with Miura welcomed back a hero, having already established himself in the national team that won the 1992 Asian Cup.

Miura scored 55 goals in 89 appearances for Samurai Blue, the last of which came in 2000.

Alongside recently retired baseball star Ichiro Suzuki, Miura is Japan’s most famous and recognizable sports personality, whose face adorns television commercials and advertising boards across the country.

He also played a starring role in the opening of the National Stadium, built for the now-rearranged Tokyo Olympics.

However, in the Yokohama dressing room Miura said he is just one of the boys.

“I often have conversations with my teammates, who are in their teens and twenties,” he said.

“We talk about stupid stuff, of course we talk about soccer, we talk about girls. I don’t feel uncomfortable around them at all.”

Miura said that he is not contemplating retirement yet and that as long as he — and head coach Takahiro Shimotaira — feel he can contribute, then he will continue playing.

“I have devoted all the passion I have to soccer,” he said.

“So, I wonder if I can stay alive if soccer disappears (from my life).”


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