It is unlikely that Kazuyoshi
Miura, tireless forward of the Yokohama FC, leave football if someone does not stop you. The J-League (Japanese league) begins this Friday and he will continue competing despite the fact that he turns 54 that same day!
In the country with the oldest population in the world, with a quarter of them over 65, Miura is a symbol. But the forward, nicknamed ‘King Kazu’, the world’s oldest professional footballer, is not alone: in the Land of the Rising Sun, nine players over 40 are preparing to put on their boots.
This old surface fox, the oldest player to score in a professional game at 50 years and 4 days in early 2017, still appreciates the smell of grass. In January he renewed his contract with Yokohama FC, arriving in 2005 at the age of 38, which is usually the retirement age for a high-level footballer.
Dutch defender Calvin Jong-a-Pin, a teammate in Yokohama, believes that the physical intensity of the J-League, lower than in many other leagues, is a favorable factor for long careers. But he claims that Miuras’ physical form is enviable. “He is super motivated, he is a true professional. In training, we have quite intense sessions in which we have to run. He is always ahead of others and always finishes first, ”says Jong-a-Pin.
“He always says that he wants to die in a field. Someone else will have to make it stop, because he won’t do it himself. ” The defense explains that Miura has a personal trainer “who follows him everywhere” and a private driver who allows him “not to waste energy while driving from his home to the training center.”
The ‘King Kazu’, who began his professional career in 1986 at the Brazilian Santos, has to face a new season after the little prominence he had in the past, with only four appearances. “From a personal point of view it was not a season satisfactory, but my ambition and my enthusiasm for football have increased tenfold, “he said.
Nakamura, Inamoto, Ito and Endo, other examples
An ambition and enthusiasm shared by several other footballers, in their forties and still active in professional soccer in Japan. Former Celtic Glasgow and Espanyol midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura is still standing at 42, and former internationals Junichi Inamoto, Yasuhito Endo and Teruyoshi Ito, now 46, are in their forties.
“I think Japanese culture might have something to do with it,” Keiji Tamada, a 40-year-old forward who plays in the Japanese 2nd Division, at V-Varen Nagasaki, told AFP. “Of course the goal is to play games, but I think many players stay with their teams because they feel they can make a further contribution,” he explains.
According to midfielder Shinji Ono, who played for Bochum and Feyenoord in the 2000s and is about to start his 24th professional season at age 41, there is a phenomenon of emulation among older generation players. “Sometimes we meet and talk,” says the Consadole Sapporo player. “But the topic of retirement never enters our conversations, because we can feel that each of us still enjoys playing soccer.”