Asia's aging sports stars never say 'retire'

Durability of the region's professional athletes puzzles outsiders

Nikkei -- Apr 20
Elderly Western visitors to East Asia often say they enjoy their trips partly because of the respect accorded to older people. But these cultural habits can hold back countries such as Japan and South Korea when it comes to sport.

The saga of Japanese footballer Kazuyoshi Miura could not have happened in Europe. I started covering Asian sports in the late 1990s when "King Kazu," who debuted for Japan in 1990, was approaching what appeared to be the final stages of a storied career.

After being excluded from Japan's first soccer World Cup appearance in 1998, Miura's best days seemed to be over. To put it baldly (although he still has a fine head of hair) a current version of Miura even at 25 would not now be employed in top class soccer.

Yet at 55, he is still playing professionally, having moved from Yokohama FC to the Suzuka Point Getters in January. For comparison, Teddy Sheringham, the oldest player to appear in the English Premier League, was 40 in his last EPL game in 2006.

Miura's annual contract renewal has become the most consistent sports story in East Asia for the international media. Japanese journalists think there are better stories, but won't say so publicly. Nobody wants to criticize this icon of Japanese soccer. ...continue reading