Professional footballer, 53 – how Kazuyoshi Miura does it

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Miura on the launch of the 2020 J League in February

The second spherical of the Japanese League Cup just isn’t usually worldwide information. But when top-division aspect Yokohama FC performed Sagan Tosu final month, it made headlines all over the world. Why?

Because the Yokohama captain, Kazuyoshi Miura, was 53 years outdated.

Miura’s unending profession fascinates soccer followers all over the world. His contract extensions are reported by the BBC and CNN. He holds the Guinness document for “world’s oldest goalscorer”.

Even his inclusion within the FIFA 20 laptop recreation – after first showing in it 24 years in the past – made headlines.

So who’s “King Kazu” and why does he hold taking part in? What’s the key to a soccer profession that’s at the very least 15 years longer than common?

The story, he instructed the BBC, started with the 1970 World Cup, Pele, and an 8mm digicam.

Miura grew up in a soccer household in Shizuoka, the place the sport has lengthy been well-liked. His older brother Yasutoshi additionally grew to become knowledgeable, and their father was an avid fan.

“My father was in Mexico in 1970 to look at the World Cup,” Miura says, talking through a translator. “He filmed the matches by 8mm video digicam. At that point, Pele was taking part in, and I grew up watching the video taken by my father.”

Miura was solely three in 1970, however the home-made video, looping again and again, had a long-lasting influence.

“I grew to become a fan of Brazilian soccer,” he says. “From the time I used to be just a little boy, I wished to stay as knowledgeable participant.”

Miura’s father had hyperlinks to Brazil and {the teenager} left faculty in Shizuoka aged 15 to maneuver there.

“At that point there was no J-League [the professional Japanese league that began in 1993],” Miura recollects. “So there was no method of turning into knowledgeable soccer participant in Japan.”

He signed for Juventus, knowledgeable crew in Sao Paulo, but it surely was not a simple begin. He lived in a dormitory with different youth gamers, aged 15 to 20, and spoke little Portuguese.

“I couldn’t perceive the language, and the customs have been completely different, so naturally I felt lonely,” Miura says. “The first three months was actually arduous.”

But he was decided to enhance. He threw himself into coaching periods. He realized Portuguese. He made mates. He had to achieve Brazil as a result of, actually, there was no Plan B. When requested whether or not there was another profession, had soccer not labored out, he pauses.

“I don’t have any concept,” he says, ultimately. “All I wished was to be a soccer participant. So that is the toughest query to reply.”

In 1986, three years after shifting to Brazil, Miura signed for Santos, the place Pele – star of these 8mm movies – performed most of his profession. He stayed in Brazil, at a variety of golf equipment, for greater than 4 years.

He returned to Japan in 1990, a bona fide celebrity. In 1993, the J-League’s first season, Miura was named most precious participant – beating, amongst others, England’s Gary Lineker.

In 1994, he moved on mortgage to Genoa in Italy, turning into the primary Japanese participant in Serie A. He wanted surgical procedure after his first recreation – he hit the again of Italian legend Franco Baresi’s head – scored just one objective, and stayed just one season. But his spell in Italy solely elevated his standing again dwelling.

“It’s arduous to overstate his significance,” says soccer journalist in Japan, Sean Carroll.

“He is intrinsically tied up with the start and improvement {of professional} soccer in Japan… he has achieved a god-like standing, in some methods I suppose much like Maradona in Argentina,” Carroll says.

“There is a complete era {of professional} gamers, possibly even two generations now, who cite him as their position mannequin once they have been youngsters.”

But why is he nonetheless taking part in?

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Miura’s transfer to Genoa was funded by sponsors – he performed 21 occasions in Italy, scoring one objective

In 2005 – aged 38 – Miura signed for his present membership, Yokohama FC, within the Japanese second division. He grew to become a key participant, taking part in 39 occasions because the crew gained promotion to the highest division in 2006.

Although they have been relegated after one season, Miura remained a daily for Yokohama within the second tier effectively into his 40s. In 2016, he performed 20 occasions, scoring twice.

He was 49 years outdated.

Miura hardly ever will get injured (besides when working into Franco Baresi) and is famend for his health regime. He speaks to the BBC after coaching, in a dressing robe, holding an ice pack to his leg.

“For certain, it takes me longer than the youthful gamers to recuperate,” he says. “But although it’s very arduous, I’ve this ardour of eager to play, in order that retains me going.”

And, in addition to his health, there’s another excuse for Miura’s ultra-long profession – his recognition.

In 1998, simply earlier than Japan’s first World Cup, Miura was dropped from the squad, including a layer of sympathy to his celebrity standing. But extra importantly, he’s identified for merely being a pleasant particular person.

The editor of J Soccer journal, Alan Gibson, first met Miura in 1993, and went on to referee him a variety of occasions in pleasant video games when he performed for Vissel Kobe within the early 2000s.

“He was a gentleman on the sector – I actually loved refereeing him,” says Gibson.

“Everyone loves him. Although he’s ‘the King’, he didn’t make the World Cup. And, as he performed for Yokohama for therefore lengthy, he hasn’t not too long ago gained a championship with a crew everybody hates.”

That recognition makes extra folks watch Yokohama video games – “If they know he’s taking part in, an additional 3,000 or 4,000 folks flip up,” says Gibson – and encourages a variety of sponsors.

That hyperlinks to a closing cause for Miura’s longevity: the respectful – or maybe sentimental – streak than runs by way of Japanese society.

One coach, whereas praising Miura, tells the BBC that “King Kazu” has turn into a “panda bear” at Yokohama – that’s, a uncommon, much-loved curiosity, fairly than a critical participant. Despite taking part in twice within the League Cup, he has not performed within the league this season, and solely performed thrice final 12 months.

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Miura taking part in for Japan towards the UAE within the 1992 Asian Cup, a event Japan gained

Sean Carroll says Miura’s expertise is essential within the Yokohama dressing room, however agrees that his ultra-long profession says one thing about Japanese society extra broadly.

“Hierarchy is extremely essential in Japan anyway, however whenever you’ve contributed as a lot as Kazu, he just about has a contract so long as he desires one,” he says.

“The concept of him ‘working arduous’ and ‘appearing as an inspiration’ is oft-repeated by followers and the media – fulfilling a type of ‘anything-is-possible’ fairy story. Which once more, displays Japanese tradition at giant.”

Even that, although, doesn’t fairly clarify Miura’s longevity. After all, it’s not the supporters, or the sponsors, who push by way of the ache barrier, day in, time out, aged 53.

Miura is usually requested what the “secret” is to his profession. He insists there is no such thing as a secret – apart from arduous work and dedication. But maybe the key comes within the reply to the ultimate query.

Does 53-year-old Kazu, coaching every single day in Yokohama, get pleasure from kicking a ball as a lot because the 15-year-old boy who flew to Brazil with a couple of phrases of Portuguese and head stuffed with goals?

“Yes, I nonetheless get pleasure from taking part in soccer – each second,” he says. “Really, I get pleasure from it much more than after I was in Brazil.”

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