Kazuyoshi Miura, Japanese Pro Soccer Player, Still Playing at Age 52…

The door to the gymnasium opened, and a man in his early 50s walked in.

He [Kazuyoshi Miura] was dapperly dressed in a cream-coloured three-piece suit, pale pink shirt, burned orange tie and gleaming dark brogues. His black hair was styled in a rakish quiff, and his goatee was neatly trimmed. A red rose was pinned to his left lapel.

In the middle of the gym, a large white birthday cake, topped with fruit, sat on a table. Accompanied by a chorus of "Happy Birthday", the man broke into an exaggerated strut, showily pumping his arms for effect, before elegantly twirling and stretching out his right hand in a theatrical flourish.

"He's football royalty here," says Sean Carroll, a Tokyo-based football writer. "For Japanese football fans, he's a god-like figure."

Given Japan's status as the country with both the highest life expectancy and the oldest population, it is perhaps unsurprising that many of its players play on into their late 30s.

Even by Japanese standards, Miura is an outlier. But at the age of 52, is he still any good?

"He obviously brings things to Yokohama money-wise, by putting bums on seats, and having him attached to the club works out very well commercially," says Carroll.

"The aura around him and the reputation that he's got must also have an impact when it comes to attracting new players."

Renowned almost as much for his natty dress sense as for his sporting endeavours, Miura is the face of several brands, advertising everything from coffee to male grooming salons.

He is seen as a kind of unofficial spokesman for Japanese football and is regularly solicited for his opinions on the game, be it FIFA's plans to expand the World Cup or the general health of the national team.

Away from football, he is said to live a quiet life with his wife, Risako (a former actress), and their two children. He is famed for his commitment to his physical fitness and routinely travels to the Pacific island of Guam with a fitness coach in the close season to get himself into shape.

"He is still one of the Japanese players who trains the hardest," says Tanabe. "His standard of training is incredibly high for his age.

Even though his performances have been dropping, he tries his hardest to maintain his condition, and that's seen as very respectable."

At the end of every year, Japan's football writers update the pieces that they have prepared for the momentous day when Miura finally announces his retirement.

And every January, when he reveals that he intends to continue for another year, they quietly file them away again.

"I'm sure he has already earned plenty of money, and he has tons of fame," says Tanabe.

"It might sound naive, but I think he simply loves football. Otherwise there's no other reason to keep on playing."

The night may be drawing in on Miura's career, but he still has history in his grasp. The next time he takes to the field, he will make his own world record a little harder to beat.

Should he score another goal, it will make headlines around the world.

And come February 2020, it will surprise nobody if he dons yet another sharp suit, flashes yet another beaming smile for the cameras and blows out the candles on yet another birthday cake.

text in this article copied from a much longer article I ran across at BleacherReport.com


~stay healthy~


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