“I just thought it would be difficult for me to play in another uniform except the Reds’ uniform,” Urawa Reds and former Japan striker Masahiro Fukuda emotionally said of the reasons for his retirement on Tuesday at a Saitama hotel.

Fukuda, known as “Mr. Reds” after playing for 14 years for his only club, Urawa, joined Urawa’s predecessor Mitsubishi FC from Chuo University in 1989.

“I have lots of things that I want to tell to our supporters but cannot put them into words. I just want to thank them very much,” the 36-year-old said.

Fukuda played in 316 league and cup matches, scoring 156 goals. He also scored nine times in his 45 appearances for Japan from 1990-95 and played in Japan’s 1994 World Cup campaign.

Fukuda said the league game on Nov. 27 in 1999, in which he scored the winning goal in Urawa’s 1-0 extra-time win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima at home but got relegated to J2, was his most memorable.

“I remember that game and my goal. That is probably not a good one to remember but that remains a strong memory.”

As a mark of respect for Fukuda, his teammates have reportedly refused to wear the team’s No. 9 shirt — the number Fukuda wore for the Reds.

“No. 9 is a special number for me as my heroes, Careca and Rudi Voeller, had that number and I felt that a striker should wear that,” Fukuda said. “Wearing No. 9 for the Reds means taking a big responsibility. That’s how I played. I hope our younger players will inherit that.”

As for his future, Fukuda aims to become a coach “as that is how I can fully use what I’ve learned on the field.”

Fukuda said he would like to coach children to begin with, “to let them know the joy of playing soccer and give them the dream I was given when I was small.

Urawa president Motoaki Inukai said, “We want him to coach the Reds in the near future. We believe he’ll go out and prepare himself for that.”

The club is planning to hold a testimonial match for Fukuda later this year. “I think that would put the seal on my retirement,” Fukuda added.

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