Soccer / J. League

'King Kazu' plays on 50th birthday to update J. League record

Kyodo

Evergreen former Japan striker Kazuyoshi Miura reached a new milestone on his 50th birthday on Sunday, rewriting his record as the oldest player to play in the J. League second division.

Affectionately known as ‘King Kazu’ in Japan, Miura set the new mark after making his first start in two years in Yokohama FC’s season-opener at home to Matsumoto Yamaga in front of over 13,000 at Mitsuzawa Stadium.

Miura played for 65 minutes before being replaced by Tomohiro Tsuda. Yokohama won the game 1-0 thanks to a 16th-minute strike from Naoki Nomura.

“It makes me happy that I can battle it out on the pitch even though I am 50,” Miura, wearing a snazzy pink suit, told reporters after the game.

“I’m not a new car anymore. But vintage motors can still take part in the race if you look after them properly when you drive them every day.”

“I want to get myself ready to train hard tomorrow ahead of our next game. It’s the same routine every day,” he said.

Miura appeared in 20 league games last year and scored twice. On Aug. 7, he scored in a match against Cerezo Osaka and renewed his own record as the J. League’s oldest scorer at 49 years, five months and 12 days.

Miura traveled to Brazil as a 15-year-old in 1982 before becoming a professional, playing for several clubs including powerhouse Santos.

He returned to Japan in 1990 and joined Yomiuri FC, which later became Verdy Kawasaki and then Tokyo Verdy, a dominant force in the J. League’s inaugural 1993 season.

Miura had a loan spell with Genoa in the Italian Serie A in the 1994-95 season and another stint with Dinamo Zagreb in 1999.

After returning home to play for Kyoto Sanga and Vissel Kobe, Miura joined Yokohama FC in 2005 and appeared in the Club World Championship (now the Club World Cup) that year with Sydney FC on a short-term loan deal.

Miura, who netted 55 times in 89 games for Japan, has never appeared in the World Cup. He scored the opener against Iraq in the final playoff for the 1994 tournament, but Japan conceded a last-minute equalizer in Doha for a 2-2 draw and was eliminated.

Miura was dropped from the final squad for France 1998, where debutant Japan lost all three group stage games.