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Yokohama defender Dutra turning back time as he nears 40

by Andrew Mckirdy

Staff Writer

Yokohama F. Marinos left-back Dutra will celebrate his 40th birthday before the current J. League season is over, but that does not mean he intends to shift down a gear anytime soon.

Few Marinos fans thought they would see Dutra again when he left the club in 2006 following a 5½-year stint that yielded two league titles and a Nabisco Cup-winner’s medal, but the Brazilian confounded expectations by returning last April and missing only one league game over the course of the season despite turning 39 last August.

Now, with his 40th birthday less than two months away, the diminutive fullback has ample reason to continue raging against the dying light. Marinos went into the May 29 to July 6 J. League shutdown third in the table, and with Sunday’s Nabisco Cup quarterfinal first leg against Kashima Antlers giving the club a chance to take another step toward a first trophy since 2004, Dutra is not about to call time on his career just yet.

“I know myself that it’s difficult to keep playing, but it makes me very proud that I’ve been able to continue for so long,” Dutra said at Marinos’ training ground earlier this week. “It’s something that gives me a lot of pleasure.

“Antlers are always a difficult team to play against. They play attacking football and so do we, so it should be a good game and I’m looking forward to it. We’ve been getting good results in the J. League and the Nabisco Cup, so now we just have to do our best to keep it up. National Stadium is a stadium with a lot of tradition, and I really want to play in the final there.”

Dutra’s first spell at Marinos coincided with one of the most successful periods in the club’s history, winning the J. League in 2003 and 2004 as well as the Nabisco Cup in 2001. Several members of that team remain in a current squad lacking nothing in terms of experience, but Dutra insists the likes of 35-year-old Yuji Nakazawa and 37-year-old Marquinhos still have a valuable role to play.

“For sure we have a lot of veterans here, but we also have a lot of young players and we train together every day,” said Dutra. “The veterans still have a lot to offer, and we can have a positive influence on the younger players.”

I’ve known Marquinhos for a long time, and we talk a lot about what we can do to help the team. We talk about what’s good and what’s not so good among ourselves and with the other veterans. He’s a good person for me to talk to about what we can do to improve the team.”

Marquinhos is also in his second stint at Marinos having won the title alongside Dutra in 2003, and the striker can only marvel at his senior teammate’s staying power.

“Dutra is an excellent fullback,” said Marquinhos, who has scored seven league goals so far this season. “He has a lot of experience, and in training he is the kind of player who sets a real example to the others. You wouldn’t believe that he’s almost 40 when you see how much he runs.

“He really looks after himself physically. He trains and works out very thoroughly, leads a healthy lifestyle and doesn’t drink or smoke. If he wants to, I think he can keep going for another year or two.”

Dutra spent five years at Sport Recife after leaving Marinos for Brazil at the end of 2006, but his return to Yokohama last year came completely out of the blue. The 170-cm defender visited Japan last January to pay tribute to former Marinos teammate Naoki Matsuda, who died suddenly in August 2011, but resuming his J. League career was the last thing on his mind.

“I didn’t expect to come back to Marinos,” he said. “I was invited last year to take part in a memorial game for Matsuda, but at that time I didn’t think it was possible to come back and play any more than that. So I was shocked when the offer came, but at the same time it made me very happy that I could return to this team.

“For me this club feels like home, so when I put on the Marinos shirt again it was a great feeling.”

But while Japan clearly has a special place in Dutra’s heart, when it comes to soccer nothing can take a back seat to his native Brazil. The Selecao gave Japan a 3-0 thrashing in the opening game of the Confederations Cup last weekend, and Dutra’s sympathy for his adopted home was limited.

“I didn’t watch the match, but from seeing the result and hearing what people have said, I think not having much time to prepare after arriving in Brazil was pretty damaging for Japan,” he said. “But I’m Brazilian and I always support Brazil, and they’re doing well so I was happy with the result.

“I didn’t have any mixed feelings about the fact they were playing Japan. The only time I have a particularly special feeling about Brazil’s opponents is when they’re playing Argentina. Any other team and it’s just another game supporting Brazil.”