World Cup-winning ‘keeper Kaihori announces retirement

Kyodo

Nadeshiko Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori announced her retirement through her club INAC Kobe Leonessa on Friday at the age of 29, saying she had passed her physical peak.

“I am not able to perform physically as well as I used to, and have become unable to beat my biggest rival in myself on a daily basis,” said Kaihori.

Renowned for her quick reflexes, Kaihori helped Nadeshiko win their first World Cup title in 2011 in Germany by saving twice in the penalty shootout in the final against the United States.

The 170-cm custodian has been a Nadeshiko mainstay, named in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics squad and keeping goal at the World Cup last summer in Canada where Japan was runnerup. She has won 53 caps for Japan.

“Given that I can’t bring myself up to a condition I’d be satisfied with, it is against my principle to continue as a player,” said Kaihori.

Kaihori told INAC of her intention to retire following her side’s Empress’ Cup win on Dec. 27 and the club was unable to persuade her to change her mind.

Kaihori becomes the second Japan international at INAC to call time on her career in recent weeks after talismanic midfielder and former Women’s World Player of the Year Homare Sawa.

“She was a valuable player and came to the team’s rescue on so many occasions,” INAC manager Takeo Matsuda said of Kaihori. “Both Sawa and Kaihori are players that the team could not have done without.”