Football: Kawaguchi, Japan’s most-capped goalie, plays final game

Former Japan goalkeeper Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi brought down the curtain on his professional career Sunday in the final game of the season for third-division SC Sagamihara.

Kawaguchi, whose 116 Japan caps are the most for a goalie, played the full 90 minutes in Sagamihara’s 1-0 win over visiting Kagoshima United in front of a club record 12,612 at Sagamihara Gion Stadium.

(Kawaguchi in the final game)[Getty/Kyodo]

The 43-year-old custodian came to the rescue a number of times for the home team, showing quick reflexes to produce strong saves either side of halftime.

Upon finishing with a clean sheet, a tearful Kawaguchi was embraced by teammates before leaving the pitch to a standing ovation.

«This was the best way to finish. I can face the challenges ahead with a feeling of accomplishment,» Kawaguchi said.

The Shizuoka native, who made his professional debut with Yokohama F Marinos in 1994, played six matches in his role as a reserve keeper for Sagamihara this season.

His career included stints with English side Portsmouth and Denmark’s FC Nordsjaelland. After returning to Japan in 2005, he spent nine seasons with Jubilo Iwata in the J-League first division.

Kawaguchi was a member of the Japan squad for four straight World Cups, starting with the Samurai Blue’s first-ever game at the tournament in 1998.

Meanwhile, Kawaguchi’s former Japan teammate Junichi Inamoto will no longer play for Consadole Sapporo, the J1 side announced Sunday.

Consadole, for whom Inamoto appeared eight times this season, said they were not renewing the 39-year-old’s contract.

In a statement from the club, Inamoto said he intended to continue his playing career with another team.

(Kawaguchi during the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Group F match between Japan and Brazil on June 22, 2006 in Dortmund, Germany.) [Getty/Kyodo]

All — Kyodo News+

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