Soccer / J. League

Legendary Samurai Blue goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi plays final game

Kyodo

Former Japan goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi brought down the curtain on his professional career Sunday in the final game of the season for third-division SC Sagamihara.

Kawaguchi, whose 116 Japan caps are the most for a goalie, played the full 90 minutes in Sagamihara’s 1-0 win over visiting Kagoshima United in front of a club record 12,612 at Sagamihara Gion Stadium.

The 43-year-old custodian came to the rescue a number of times for the home team, showing quick reflexes to produce strong saves either side of halftime.

Upon finishing with a clean sheet, a tearful Kawaguchi was embraced by teammates before leaving the pitch to a standing ovation.

“This was the best way to finish. I can face the challenges ahead with a feeling of accomplishment,” Kawaguchi said.

The Shizuoka native, who made his professional debut with Yokohama Marinos (now Yokohama F. Marinos) in 1994, played six matches in his role as a reserve keeper for Sagamihara this season.

His career included stints with English side Portsmouth and Denmark’s FC Nordsjaelland. After returning to Japan in 2005, he spent nine seasons with Jubilo Iwata in the J. League’s first division.

Kawaguchi was a member of the Japan squad for four straight World Cups, and started in all three games of the Samurai Blue’s 1998 tournament debut.

Meanwhile, Kawaguchi’s former Japan teammate Junichi Inamoto will no longer play for Consadole Sapporo, the northern J1 side announced Sunday.

Consadole, for whom Inamoto appeared eight times this season, said it would not renew the 39-year-old’s contract.

In a statement from the club, Inamoto said he intended to continue his playing career with another team.