Mr. Hidetoshi Nakata, a key playmaker for Japan’s national soccer team, has announced that he will retire from the sport as a professional. This international midfielder and national superstar has contributed much to the upsurge in popularity of soccer among Japanese since the mid-1990s.

The 29-year-old icon, the only player to have appeared in all 10 of Japan’s World Cup matches, became a professional soccer player in 1995, when he joined the Bellmare Hiratsuka of the J. League. In May 1997, he debuted internationally as a member of Japan’s national team.

In the summer of 1998, he transferred to Perugia of the Serie A, to become the second Japanese to play in Italy. He also played with Roma, Parma, Bologna and Fiorentina before joining the English club Bolton in August 2005.

On Japan’s national team, Mr. Nakata demonstrated superior performance at all times. He served as a pioneer that other Japanese players emulated as they worked to make inroads into the European clubs.

He had a strong determination to succeed in Italy — at the top level of world soccer play. To attain his goal, he adopted a solid and rational approach without compromise. He strove to perfect basic skills while strengthening his muscles so that he could handle the ball properly even when up against a bigger, more powerful opponent. He often performed energetically when other teammates were fatigued.

Mr. Nakata studied the Italian language in earnest. He knew that melting into a different culture and smoothing communication with the coach and teammates would enhance not only his own performance but also that of the team overall. He went on to build good relations with the Italian media.

His efforts seemed to endow him with the spiritual power needed to control himself in big international games, and with enough stamina to outrun opponents. Mr. Nakata has set a good example not only for sports players but for Japanese people in general, as they face the era of globalization.

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