Japan mixed soccer with fiction in Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions, a manga series that tells the story of how a team, called Nankatsu, became the winners of various tournaments. The main character is Tsubasa Ōzor. In some countries like Spain, he is called Oliver Atom. He has been inspiring Japanese children who have played soccer in the last two decades of the 20th century and the beginning of the 2000s. What those young people did not know is that Ōzora "exists" in real life.
The creators of the series were inspired by Kazuyoshi Miura, born in 1967. He was their inspiration for the main character. This Japanese soccer player began his professional career in 1986. To this day, he continues to play soccer professionally.
His career did not begin in his native country, but instead in Brazil, where he immigrated to be able to stand out as a professional because in Japan soccer did not have the following there that it has now. At that time, baseball and martial arts were more widely recognized. The surprising thing is that Miura, just a few days shy of his 56th birthday, is still active.
King Kazu, as he is known, just signed on to União Desportiva Oliveirense in Portugal's second division. It is his sixteenth team in his 37-year career. He has played in six countries on four different continents (Europe, America, Asia, and Australia).
🇵🇹 Bem-vindo, Miura Kazu!
🇬🇧 Welcome Miura Kazu!#𝗨𝗗𝗢 #𝗦𝗼𝗺𝗼𝘀𝗨𝗻𝗶ã𝗼 #𝗢𝗥𝗲𝗴𝗿𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗼𝗗𝗮𝗨𝗻𝗶ã𝗼 pic.twitter.com/AltQOnIsGE
— UD Oliveirense Futebol SAD (@oliveirense_sad) February 1, 2023
He was most successful in his home country, where he played for five different teams throughout 30 seasons. He was most successful at Yokohama F. C., where he played from 2006 to 2022. He scored 55 goals in 89 games for the Japanese national team. He also holds the record of being the oldest player to play in an official match and score a goal.
Kazuyoshi Miura's secret
Kazuyoshi Miura, who started playing in 1986, would have normally ended his professional career around the year 2000. Typically, at that time, a player's career lasted around 15 years, starting at 18 or 19 and ending at 34 or 35. Nowadays, soccer players might play two or three more seasons, retiring at the age of 37 or 38. In any case, his case is totally implausible.
The world of soccer is wondering: How does he manage to stay active? The answer was given by Kazuyoshi Miura himself in statements to Reuters in 2020, when he revealed the secret for his never-ending career:
I am not that conscious about making records of being the oldest. My feelings towards soccer and my aspirations that I want to have success in soccer haven’t changed since I became a professional player in Brazil in 1986. The passion has not changed either.
King Kazu assured the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in an interview in 2021 that he would never give up soccer:
When I signed my first professional contract in Brazil at the age of 18, I never imagined that I would play until this age. I have been able to do this because I have put all my energy into soccer every single year. I don't think I'll ever leave soccer, either. I think I will be involved in soccer in one way or another. I don't know how long I'll be playing. It could be tomorrow, it could be two or three years from now.