YOKOHAMA – A crowd of over 40,000 turned out Sunday to watch Hidetoshi Nakata and other former Japan teammates of the late Naoki Matsuda play in a memorial match for the former defender, who passed away last summer aged just 34.
Current and former players of Yokohama F. Marinos, where Matsuda spent most of his career, as well as players of newly promoted second-division club Matsumoto Yamaga also took part in the event at Nissan Stadium, Yokohama’s home ground.
All of the players who took part in the match, including Nakata and Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, who played alongside Matsuda in defense at the 2002 World Cup, formed Matsuda’s No. 3 squad number on the pitch and the match was preceded with a moment’s silence.
“It has to take something pretty special to be able to get players like these here,” said Nakata, who retired from international soccer after the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
“I was never far away from Matsu (Matsuda) after getting to know him at 14 years old. We both spoke our minds but he didn’t hide anything and that made me feel comfortable. I think we were a great combo.”