Oldest professional footballer signs new contract at 51
Arguably Japan’s first superstar in football, Kazuyoshi Miura signed a new one year contract with Japanese 2nd division side Yokohama FC for his 33rd season in professional football.
Kazuyoshi’s first brush with the game came at the age of six becoming the member of Jonouchi Football club. In 1982, at the age of 15, Kazuyoshi left for Brazil all alone in search of a professional football club and joined Clube Atletico Juventus. Four years later, Kazuyoshi signed his first professional contract with Brazilian club Santos FC, a club where legendary Pele played for most parts of his career.
Despite not having played professionally in his homeland till 1990, Kazuyoshi had already garnered some stardom when he came back home to sign for Yomiuri FC. Affectionately known as Kazu or sometimes King Kazu, Miura’s rise also coincided with the launch of J-League in 1993, becoming the first Japanese player to win Asian Footballer of the Year.
Among a host of other records, Miura also became the first Japanese player to play in Italy, signing for Genoa, with his only goal there coming in the Genoa Derby. Kazu also had few other club stints including Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb and A League side Sydney FC before finally settling at Yokohama FC in 2005.
Kazu has netted an incredible 55 times in 89 appearances for his country. Apart from being the part of 1992 AFC Asian Cup winning side. Kazu biggest contribution to his country came in the year 1997, when he scored 14 goals to help his team in qualifying for France 1998 World Cup – Japan’s first appearance in the football’s grandest stage. However, a goal drought leading up to the event meant Miura getting omitted from the Japan world cup squad.
He retired from international football two years later, with 55 goals from his 89 caps. While King Kazu hanged up his boots for his country in 2000, his legs are still running around in the club circuit. Kazu has made more than 250 appearances for Yokohama FC, ever since he signed up for them at the age of 38 – an age where most footballers retire.
“I will always play my heart out and hope to continue to grow (as a player),"
Miura said to a local news media after his recent contract extension, showing no signs of slowing up.