“Old Age Steadily Creeps Up on You”: Yet 56-Year-Old Kazu Signs with a Portuguese Club
On July 11, 11:11 a.m. (Portuguese time), it was announced Kazuyoshi Miura would travel to Portugal to discuss extending his contract with UD Oliveirense. He was with the Portuguese second division team from January through June this year. With the official signing, he would again be on loan from J-League club Yokohama FC.
We interviewed Miura, a.k.a. “King Kazu,” as he worked on a meticulously scheduled voluntary training to prepare for the Portuguese football season starting in August.
Total 40 Minutes Game Time in Four Months
– So, you’ll continue to play in the next season.
Kazu: First, I’m grateful for the team that took me in, and everyone that led me to this environment. During the four months of the previous season, I got to know how wonderful the Portuguese soccer culture was, and the high level of the team Oliveirense. So, I’m thrilled I can be there again. I’ll keep on working hard to appear on the pitch and try to bring better results as possible for the team.
– Yet, in the previous season, you only logged 40 minutes of play time in four months.
Kazu: It’s hard to produce results in a short period. You don’t get good at the sport overnight, you know (laughs). Within a dozen or so matches, when you suddenly join the team, it’s going to be like that. Of course, I’ve always aimed to make appearances wherever I went. If it’s just four months, I could just about withstand not getting minutes on the pitch. That’s because I went to this new place, Portugal, partly to get to know various players and new styles of soccer that would become my asset.
But if this is a whole year, it’s a different story. If you train every day, and am thoroughly prepared, but can’t get on the pitch, then that’s mentally tough. It will also be hard to maintain a good shape. In that sense, for the last decade, I’ve been like that, so rather unsatisfactory (laughs).
– Still, you don’t cut corners in practice, and never take a day off.
Kazu: Last year, after I ended the season (18 games, two goals) with the Suzuka Point Getters (fourth-tier Japan Football League), I practiced for almost six months. Then my total time on the pitch in Portugal was 40 minutes. But I guess this is the reality of continuing as a pro.
You Practice Tens of Thousands of Kicks and Get Only One Chance
Kazu: Moreover, for the last five or six years, after every single training, I’ve been practicing three penalty kicks with the help of the goalkeepers. Because, I’m not sure when, but if the opportunity comes, I want to be the one to kick. In Portugal, the second goalkeeper called Nuno practiced with me every day. He gets frustrated when I succeed, so sometimes, I may end up doing five shots. However, even if I’ve been training every day like that for five, six years, I’ve actually had just one penalty kick opportunity, last year at Suzuka.
Some people may say, “Even if he scored, it’s just a penalty kick,” but to score that goal, I practiced every day. In ten years, that was my only penalty shot in the official games. The only one awarded. That’s life. To achieve this much, you have to put in that much work. So for me, penalty kicks are just like life itself. You kick thousands and tens of thousands of shots, and only get one chance. Well, I’m lucky I got that one chance (laughs).
Why He Is Called “Miura” Instead of “Kazu” in the Team
– I heard that at Oliveirense, they call you “Miura” instead of ”Kazu.”
Kazu: In our team, there’s a young Japanese-Brazilian left-back who was Brazil’s Under-17 member. When he joined Brazil’s Coritiba Football Club at 13, the old manager called him in and asked, “What’s your name?” So, he said, “I’m Christian Kendji,” and the manager abruptly said, “From now on, You’re Kazu,” and told him all about me, saying, “There was a left winger from Japan called Kazu, and he played an active part……” So, from that day, Christian was registered as Kazu (laughs).
This Christian came up to me and said, “You were my iconic figure since I was at Coritiba and I hoped to meet you one day. I got to see you here in Portugal. And never thought we’d be playing together in this team, Oliveirense. Soccer is an incredible sport.” He also said, “I’ll stop using the name Kazu,” so I said, “No, no, here, you’ll continue to be Kazu. I’m okay as Miura.” That’s why I’m called Miura. But during practice, I still can’t help responding when they call out, “Kazu!” (laughs). So, when Christian scored in a league match, that’s why we did the Kazu dance celebration. We were saying if I scored, we’ll do it together. But that opportunity didn’t come.
Still Keep Going, Despite Old Age Creeping Up
– For about a decade, you’ve been saying you’d continue as a pro until 60, and I thought it was partly a joke. But all physical exam data show you’re absolutely fine, and you’ve maintained similar joint conditions as the younger players. Now at 56, it seems you can really continue until 60.
Kazu: Well, I wasn’t really thinking I’d continue until 60. In fact, my body is nothing like that of when I was 50. It’s different from day to day. I’m always wondering how I’ll be the next day, or a week later. So even the slightest pain scares me—a fear that it’s going to lead to an injury. I guess the actual time to recover from an injury is no different from young players. But unlike when I was younger, I can’t bring it back at once. In my younger days, I would recover in a linear fashion. But now, if I get injured, I need to go through a process of some rehab, rest, rehab, then rest, seeing how it goes. So, for something that takes two weeks for a young athlete, I may take four weeks. Old age is steadily creeping up on you; you can’t disguise that.
Still, I keep on going, because after all, I enjoy soccer. Whether it’s a game in practice or an intrasquad game, when I score just as I intended, I’m delighted I could still do that kind of thing and think it would be awesome if I could kick as hard with my left foot in a real match. When you’re playing in Portugal where the style is attack-oriented, and I score through a one-two pass or score three goals, I feel eager to appear on the pitch.
Right now, I just want to be thoroughly ready for the league season. So, please look forward to the results.
Kazu’s Sole Answer: Continuing as a Pro
Apparently, what the club expects of Kazu is more about publicity and attracting sponsors than running around the pitch for 90 minutes. Yet, it doesn’t matter to Kazu. Those are incidental, the results of his dedication to the sport. For him, appearing on the pitch a second longer in prime condition, and continuing his professional career, is his sole answer.
In August, Kazu will be running on the pitch in Portugal again, aiming to score goals. For the 56-year-old proudly independent “King Kazu,” fighting till “all that will be left is pure white ash” seems increasingly likely. I would like to witness how he strives till his last end on Portuguese soil.
This is a translation of the Japanese article published on July 11, 2023 on Bunshun Online.