King Kazu, the legendary Japanese footballer

There are many records in the world of football and logically, they all have their own level of difficulty. However. today's record is possibly one of the most difficult to match. Kazu Miura, at 56 years old, close to turning 57, is the oldest active professional football player and what is most surprising is that he does it in European football. Today we review a story that, funny enough, began in Brazil and that has taken him to Italy, Croatia and Australia in addition to his native Japan.

Japanese flag


Kazuyoshi Miura was born on February 26, 1967, in Shizuoka, Japan, in a family closely related to football, mainly due to his father, who became a great fan of that sport after going to the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico.

There, Miura senior was able to see Pele live and, in fact, recorded him on video, a recording that he showed to his children while they were growing up. With this influence, Kazu Miura grew up with the mentality of wanting to be a professional football player and so he began playing for Jonai FC and Jonai Junior High School, later ending up at Shizuoka Gakuen High School.


When Kazu was 15 years old, his father got him an opportunity to play futsal in Brazil, specifically in a club called Juventus, belonging to the Sao Paulo region. The influence of his father and the years watching Pele videos motivated the young Japanese to try his luck in Brazilian lands. As a curiosity, in 1984, his older brother, Yasutoshi, had already gone to Brazilian lands to play football and spent a year at Santos although without making his debut with the first team.

As Kazu himself recognized, the first 3 months were very difficult since he did not know the language and lived in residences with not very good conditions for young players. Years later, Miura would declare that there really was no other alternative for his future, it was being a football player or being a football player, so giving up was not an option.

With that mentality, he began to study Portuguese and improve in training. After 4 years at Juventus, he would get a two-game trial with Santos, thanks to a television appearance with his club, although this trial was fruitless. It would be with Palmeiras where the Japanese could get a little more continuity with the reserve team and participating with the first team in friendly matches.

From there he would go to SE Matsubara, an amateur club founded by Japanese immigrants (which would be dissolved in 2011), where he would stay for a short period of time while he got a new opportunity in professional football. He would arrive in the second tier of Brazil, with the CRB (Clube de Regatas Brasil) and then with the Esporte Clube XV de Novembro, better known as XV de Jau. The lack of minutes on both teams was demotivating him and he even considered abandoning football, however a goal against Corinthians in the Paulista Championship that meant Jau's 3-2 victory changed his destiny.

That goal not only helped him have more minutes in his club but also caught the attention of other clubs such as Coritiba, which signed him in 1988 and a year later, Santos signed him, this time without trials. Although he would not debut in the Brasileirao, he did play in the Paulista Championship where his goal against Palmeiras stands out, which helped Peixe win 2-1. His presence at Santos helped people start talking about him in Japan.

Return to home

In 1990, just one season after signing for Santos, Miura would return to his native country to play for Tokyo Verdy (at that time called Yomiuri FC and shortly after Verdy Kawasaki). The Japan Soccer League was transitioning to the J League in the early 90s and the owner of the Tokyo club made a heavy investment to bring in not only Miura but also Tsuyoshi Kitazawa, Tetsuji Hashiratani and join them with Ruy Ramos. That team would win four leagues in a row.

Miura would stay at the club until 1998, winning a total of 11 trophies. In that long spell, he had a loan to Genoa CFC in Italy, becoming the first Japanese to play in Serie A and the first player from the eastern region of the Asian continent to participate in the Italian top tier. That signing for the Genoa team had a lot of business since some Japanese investors promoted the transfer of King Kazu to Italy with the intention of buying the rights to Genoa matches and reselling them in Japan.

Miura gave up almost half of his salary just to be able to play in Serie A. In the end, his time in Italy was not very successful although he can boast of having scored against Sampdoria in a Genoese derby. The loan lasted one season and Genoa did not exercise any extension or purchase clause, so Miura returned to Tokyo, to his club of origin. After a brief time in Croatia, at Dinamo Zagreb, where he did not play much but became league champion, he did some tests with European clubs although he would end up returning to Japan to play for Kyoto Purple Sanga, Vissel Kobe and Yokohama. FC, he joined the latter in 2005 and still belongs to the club.

Yokohama FC

As soon as he arrived in Yokohama, he would have the opportunity to play for Sydney FC in Australia on loan. The time in Oceania would be short and he would return to his club of origin where he would remain for 17 seasons, most of them in the J2 League (only 3 of them were in the J1 League). In 2022, he would play on loan for Suzuka Point Getters of the Japan Football League (fourth tier of Japanese football). Yokohama FC belongs to the Onodera Group, which is a Japanese restaurant chain that also acquired Oliveirense, a second tier Portuguese football club.

Thanks to that relationship, Miura, at 55 years old, returned to European football on loan in January 2023, to become the oldest player in any sporting discipline to participate in a professional match in Portugal. At 56 years old, at the beginning of the 2023-24 season, Oliveirense renewed Miura's contract so that he could remain at the club for another year. As King Kazu himself has commented, his goal is to remain active until he is 60, something that does not seem too far-fetched at this point.
Kelvin Tingling knows most things about football and also likes to write about it. Kelvin lives in Buenos Aires and his favorite team is Boca Juniors.