When Kazuyoshi Miura scored the only goal of the game last weekend in Japan’s J2 League clash between Yokahama FC and Thespa Kusatsu, he became the oldest person ever to score in professional football, breaking a record that had stood since 1965 when Stanley Matthews netted his last goal for Stoke City.
Miura, affectionately known as Kaz or King Kazu, took his goal well in front of the large crowd. His celebration dance showed he is still very nimble on his feet. Now in his 32nd season of professional football that has seen him play for Brazilian giants Santos and Palmeiras, Genoa in Italy, Dinamo Zagreb in Croatia and Sydney FC in Australia as well as clubs in his home country, he shows no sign of hanging up his boots yet.
Sometimes players don’t have a choice when they retire. They get seriously injured and that’s the end. The very top players can retire pretty much when they like, given the amount of money they earn. For most of the rest retirement is something that is put off as long as possible. You’re a long time not playing when you hang up your boots.
Legendary goalkeeper Peter Shilton didn’t want to stop playing. Starting out around the time England won the 1966 World Cup, Shilton was still going in December 1996 when he made his 1000th League appearance, for Orient against Brighton. He eventually retired in 1997, with the all-time England cap record [125 between 1970 and 1990] amongst his long list of honours.
Playing on after the normal finishing age of mid-thirties requires dedication [to do the training and maintain fitness], luck [to avoid injury and to have a club that continues to show faith in you by extending your contract] and above all, motivation. Only a select band of warriors have all three tools in their kit-bag. Think of Maldini, Buffon and those kind of guys.
One player that comes to mind in our own league is Jason Byrne. Still playing at 39, ‘Jayo’ is the second-highest all-time League of Ireland goal scorer. With 221 goals to his credit, he is only 14 behind Brendan Bradley’s 31-year old record. If he gets a bit of a run in the Cabinteely side this season, stays fit and avoids injury, and if he bags a few to edge closer to Bradley’s 235, who’s to say Jayo mightn’t try to keep going beyond this season, and beyond his 40th birthday, to try to eclipse the Derry man’s record?
‘Jayo’ is of course an ex-Wanderer. He had two spells at Bray in fact. Another Bray player, and someone who was on the 1999 FAI Cup winning side along with ‘Jayo’, was Colm ‘Daz’ Tresson. ‘Daz’ [don’t ask me to explain the origins of the nickname] did keep going past his 40th birthday, no mean achievement. I remember watching him training a few times in his last year or two at the club. The fitness was still there, the passion for the game, the desire to work.
Game-time with the first team was limited for ‘Daz’ in those days, but Pat Devlin kept him going because he could see what an invaluable asset he was to have around the Carlisle Grounds. He worked hard and was as enthusiastic as ever about the game, and younger players learned from this positive attitude. Just like the younger players at Yokahama are learning from ‘Kaz’ Miura today. ‘Daz’ and ‘Kaz’. Two peas in a pod.