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Ex-Japan star Maezono settles with victim over drunken attack

Kyodo

Disgraced former Japan national team star Masakiyo Maezono profusely apologized after being released by police on Monday, a day after he allegedly assaulted a taxi driver in an act of drunken madness.

Police had moved to prosecute the 39-year-old Maezono, but his management agency Sunny Side Up Inc. said a settlement was reached with the driver.

“We’d like to take this opportunity to once again apologize to and thank the victim for his overwhelming generosity,” Sunny Side Up, which also manages Japanese soccer icon Hidetoshi Nakata, said in a statement.

“He even had kind and thoughtful words for Maezono, which we deeply appreciate.”

The one-time face of Japanese soccer after helping the Olympic team to victories over Hungary and a star-studded Brazil at the 1996 Atlanta Games, Maezono made no excuses for his misconduct that put him back on the front page of the sports dailies for all the wrong reasons.

“I want to apologize to the victim as well as anyone else I’ve caused trouble to for my actions,” Maezono said at a press conference, before taking a deep bow with tears welling in his eyes.

“I attacked someone, which is just unforgivable even if I was under the influence. I was drunk to a point where I lost my memory and that’s embarrassing,” he said.

Maezono, currently a TV commentator, said he phoned the driver to apologize after his release. The former Verdy Kawasaki and Yokohama Flugels midfielder also said he will indefinitely refrain from doing any television work.

According to the Tamagawa police precinct, the incident took place Sunday morning in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward.

Police said Maezono, in a drunken stupor, was dropped off near his home but refused to pay as he got out of the taxi. Maezono then punched and kicked the driver, who chased him down for the fare.

Witnesses called for help, and Maezono, who said he was out drinking until 8 a.m., was arrested at the scene.

“I remember nothing about what happened after I got in the cab,” Maezono said. “But the driver is completely free of fault here. I couldn’t be more sorry for what happened.”