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Sport

Passion hasn't changed' for Japan's ageless wonder 'King Kazu'

TOKYO (Reuters) - Kazuyoshi Miura, the 53-year-old forward for J.League side Yokohama FC, began his career 34 years ago and is still going strong, wondering if he “can stay alive” without the sport after retiring.

Not that the man known fondly in Japan as ‘King Kazu’ is considering retiring anytime soon, despite being 20 years older than most of his team mates.

Miura hasn’t played in the league for Yokohama this season - although he was an unused substitute last weekend – but did feature last month in Japan’s league cup at the age of 53 years, 5 months and 10 days, becoming the oldest player to play in the competition.

Setting records has become routine for Miura, who is also recognised 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 told Reuters on Thursday.

“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.”

Yokohama FC's Japanese striker Kazuyoshi Miura who is recognised as the world's oldest goalscorer and oldest player currently playing in a professional league, gestures during J. League YBC Levain Cup soccer match against Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in Sapporo, northern Japan August 12, 2020, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Picture taken August 12, 2020. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

“The passion has not changed either.”

34-YEAR CAREER

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.

Twenty years later, Miura is still going strong. If he plays in the league for Yokohama this season, he will become the oldest-ever player in a J.League first-division match.

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 team mates, 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).”

Reporting by Jack Tarrant and Hideto Sakai; editing by Christian Radnedge

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