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A new age of golden oldies

China Daily | Updated: 2021-02-25 09:33
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'A true pro'

Midfielder Shinji Ono, now 41 and preparing for his 24th professional season, says the older generation "spur each other on".

"Sometimes we meet up and have a chat," Ono, who made 14 appearances in the second division last season before moving to top-flight Consadole Sapporo, told AFP.

"But we never talk about when we're going to retire, because you can feel that everyone is enjoying playing soccer."

Soccer players plying their trade into their 40s are relatively rare in Europe, with Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Montpellier defender Hilton-both 43-among the most well-known.

Dutch defender Calvin Jong-a-Pin, a teammate of Miura's at Yokohama, believes the less physically bruising nature of the J-League "definitely helps" players continue for longer.

But he can't find fault with the seemingly evergreen Miura's fitness.

"He's highly motivated and just a true professional," said Jong-a-Pin, a relative spring chicken at 34.

"In training, we have hard sessions where we have to run, and he's running at the front. He's the first guy doing all the laps, and everyone is behind him."

Jong-a-Pin says Miura has a personal trainer "who follows him everywhere", and even has his own driver "so he doesn't lose energy driving from his home to the clubhouse".

Ono, who has played in the Netherlands, Germany and Australia, says he also takes special care of his body, and is feeling "in really good shape" heading into the new season.

"I don't think about retiring-I don't think about the future," he said.

"If no club wants me, I won't have a team to play for, and I'll have no choice but to quit. That day will come at some point, but until then, I'll enjoy playing soccer."

As for Miura, Jong-a-Pin believes it will take an act of God to make him hang up his boots.

"He told me he would die on the field," Jong-a-Pin said. "I believe him. Somebody has to make him stop, because he will not stop."


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