His career began years before most of his contemporaries were born but Japanese footballer Kazuyoshi Miura will lace up his boots for one more season. Miura holds the record as the world’s oldest professional player.
He turns 51 next month but Kazuyoshi Miura is showing no signs of slowing up. The Japanese striker began his professional career in 1986, is his country’s second top scorer of all time and has just signed a new deal with Yokohama FC.
Miura made the headlines last year when he became the oldest player to play in a professional match in Yokohama’s 1-1 draw against V-Varen Nagasaki, before breaking the record for the oldest ever goalscorer a week later. Both records were previously held by Stanley Matthews, a former England international who retired in 1965.
“I’ve signed a contract extension for this season. I will always play my heart out and hope to continue to grow (as a player),” Miura told the Kyodo news agency.
The contract extension opens another chapter in one of football’s most colorful careers. King Kazu, as Miura is known in Japan, became a superstar in his homeland early on, despite actually not playing in his homeland until 1990. His decision to travel to Brazil at the age of 15- in 1982 – was rewarded with a first pro contract with Brazilian giants Santos, where Pele spent the vast majority of his career.
After stints with several clubs in Brazil, he returned to Japan in the early nineties where his career peaked, a quarter of a century ago. He picked up four consecutive league titles while also beating international greats Gary Lineker and Zico to both the top scorer and Player of the Year honors in 1993. That same year, Miura also became the first Japanese player to win Asian Footballer of the Year.
Among a host of other records, Miura also became the first Japanese player to play in Italy, scoring in the Genoa derby, and also enjoyed stints with Sydney FC and Dinamo Zagreb.
He returned to Japan in 1999 and has been at Yokohama since 2005, racking up 243 league appearances since the age of 38. Yokohama’s next oldest outfield player is a relatively sprightly 34 while a significant proportion of his teammates are less than half his age.
One of the few omissions in this most lengthy of footballing CVs is a World Cup appearance. Despite scoring 14 goals in qualifying for France 1998, Miura was a surprising omission from the squad for Japan’s debut on football’s grandest stage.
He retired from international football two years later, with 55 goals from his 89 caps. So, despite the new deal, those hoping to see a 51-year-old take the field at Russia 2018 are likely to be disappointed.