TOKYO: Twinkle-toed former Japan striker Kazuyoshi Miura proved he has no plans to shuffle off into the sunset after the 49-year-old rewrote his own record as the J-League’s oldest goal scorer.
“King Kazu”, who is playing in his 31st season as a professional, scored with a rare header for Yokohama FC on Sunday in his side’s 2-1 defeat at home to FC Gifu in the Japanese second division.
Thought to be the world’s oldest professional footballer, Miura celebrated with his trademark tap dance, albeit slightly slower than in his heyday.
“You have to be very determined to keep going for 31 years and still score goals,” Miura told local media.
“I felt I could get a goal today,” added Japan’s erstwhile poster boy, who reached his latest milestone aged 49 years, three months and 24 days.
“But I should be scoring more if I’m honest,” Japan’s Kyodo news agency quoted him as saying.
The oldest goal scorer in Japan’s top flight is the Brazilian legend Zico, who was 41.
Closing in on his half century, Miura credited baseball superstar Ichiro Suzuki, who at 42 recently set his own personal milestone by notching 4,257 career hits, passing Pete Rose’s Major League Baseball record total.
“(Ichiro) taught me how important it is to keep chipping away to reach bigger goals,” Miura said, his pin-up looks latterly replaced by a few grey hairs and tell-tale wrinkles. “The important thing is to believe in yourself.”
Miura, dubbed King Kazu at the peak of his powers in the early 1990s when he was Asia’s best-known footballer, is Japan’s second-highest goalscorer with 55 goals in 89 matches.
He blazed a trail for Japanese players when he joined Italy’s Genoa in 1994, although a broken nose on his debut took some of the gloss off his trumpeted arrival.
When the former Dinamo Zagreb player was axed from the Japanese squad by former coach Takeshi Okada before the country’s first World Cup appearance in 1998, it triggered a national debate.
Unperturbed, Miura defiantly offered his services for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa—with no apparent hint of irony—at the ripe old age of 43. Okada, in his second spell as coach, politely declined.
Miura finally got his dream to play for Japan in a World Cup at 45, albeit in the futsal version in Thailand.