The second round of the Japanese League Cup is not normally international news. But when top-division side Yokohama FC played Sagan Tosu last month, it made headlines around the world. Why?
Because the Yokohama captain, Kazuyoshi Miura, was 53 years old.
Miura’s never-ending career fascinates football fans around the world. His contract extensions are reported by the BBC and CNN. He holds the Guinness record for “world’s oldest goalscorer”.
Even his inclusion in the FIFA 20 computer game – after first appearing in it 24 years ago – made headlines.
So who is “King Kazu” and why does he keep playing? What’s the secret to a football career that is at least 15 years longer than average?
The story, he told the BBC, began with the 1970 World Cup, Pele, and an 8mm camera.
Miura grew up in a football family in Shizuoka, where the game has long been popular. His older brother Yasutoshi also became a professional, and their father was an avid fan.
“My father was in Mexico in 1970 to watch the World Cup,” Miura says, speaking via a translator. “He filmed the matches by 8mm video camera. At that time, Pele was playing, and I grew up watching the video taken by my father.”
Miura was only three in 1970, but the home-made video, looping over and over, had a lasting impact.
“I became a fan of Brazilian football,” he says. “From the time I was a little boy, I wanted to live as a professional player.”
Miura’s father had links to Brazil and the teenager left school in Shizuoka aged 15 to move there.
“At that time there was no J-League [the professional Japanese league that began in 1993],” Miura recalls. “So there was no way of becoming a professional soccer player in Japan.”
He signed for Juventus, a professional team in Sao Paulo, but it was not an easy start. He lived in a dormitory with other youth players, aged 15 to 20, and spoke little Portuguese.
“I couldn’t understand the language, and the customs were different, so naturally I felt lonely,” Miura says. “The first three months was really hard.”
But he was determined to improve. He threw himself into training sessions. He learned Portuguese. He made friends. He had to succeed in Brazil because, really, there was no Plan B. When asked whether there was an alternative career, had football not worked out, he pauses.
“I don’t have any idea,” he says, eventually. “All I wanted was to be a football player. So this is the hardest question to answer.”
In 1986, three years after moving to Brazil, Miura signed for Santos, where Pele – star of those 8mm videos – played most of his career. He stayed in Brazil, at a number of clubs, for more than four years.
He returned to Japan in 1990, a bona fide superstar. In 1993, the J-League’s first season, Miura was named most valuable player – beating, among others, England’s Gary Lineker.
In 1994, he moved on loan to Genoa in Italy, becoming the first Japanese player in Serie A. He needed surgery after his first game – he hit the back of Italian legend Franco Baresi’s head – scored only one goal, and stayed only one season. But his spell in Italy only increased his status back home.
“It’s hard to overstate his importance,” says football journalist in Japan, Sean Carroll.
“He is intrinsically tied up with the birth and development of professional football in Japan… he has achieved a god-like status, in some ways I guess similar to Maradona in Argentina,” Carroll says.
“There is a whole generation of professional players, maybe even two generations now, who cite him as their role model when they were kids.”
But why is he still playing?
In 2005 – aged 38 – Miura signed for his current club, Yokohama FC, in the Japanese second division. He became a key player, playing 39 times as the team won promotion to the top division in 2006.
Although they were relegated after one season, Miura remained a regular for Yokohama in the second tier well into his 40s. In 2016, he played 20 times, scoring twice.
He was 49 years old.
Denmark confronts sexual harassment at work in #MeToo moment
It started with a comedy awards show and a bombshell revelation that left the audience stunned.
Now a vigorous debate about workplace sexual harassment is under way in Denmark, a country that often ranks highly for gender equality.
More than 1,600 women have signed an open letter alleging the problem is rife in Danish media. Hundreds of others have also come forward alleging sexism and harassment are serious issues in politics and the medical profession.
A #MeToo moment
“I’m really insanely happy to be the host here today,” began presenter Sofie Linde, as she introduced the Zulu Comedy Gala. “I’m only the second female host in 14 years.”
After a few jokes, Ms Linde’s speech struck a serious tone as she detailed receiving less pay than her male co-hosts.
“We can pretend there is no difference between men and women in Denmark,” said Linde, who also works on Denmark’s X Factor talent show. “It’s just not true.”
She then revealed that when she was 18 years old, and starting out at national broadcaster DR, one of the network’s heavyweights demanded oral sex and threatened to ruin her career.
The moment, broadcast two weeks ago, has catalysed a national debate that has seen Linde’s #MeToo moment come in for both praise and criticism.
‘We experienced it too’
Dismayed by the negative reactions,
several female journalists wrote an open letter of support in Politiken newspaper calling out both sexual harassment and a sexist workplace culture. “You are right. We experienced it too,” they said in their front-page address to Sofie Linde.
“We’ve all experienced it to a greater or lesser degree over the course of our careers: inappropriate remarks on our appearance or clothing; suggestive messages; physical behaviour that crosses the line. Warnings that there are a few men we should avoid at the Christmas party. It happened before. It’s still happening.”
By the time the newspaper was published, 701 women had signed the letter. The next day it was more than 1,600. Those who signed either had direct experience or knew of a colleague who had, said TV2 reporter Camilla Slyngborg.
“We wanted it to be proof, so we don’t have to talk anymore about whether this exists, but how to solve the problem.”
“Hundreds of people wrote with small stories or bigger stories about what they’ve experienced,” she told the BBC. “It’s actually been kind of sad to go through these emails.”
Complaints emerge across society
More claims have come to light since.
Ten women have complained to DR News about the behaviour of male bosses or senior male staff while they were trainees from 2015-2019. The allegations include inappropriate comments, unwanted text messages, shoulder massages and patting on the bottom.
Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet has faced accusations too. Last Monday, 46 women wrote to management detailing sexual harassment at the paper.
Women have also shared experiences of sexism and harassment in other workplaces, from restaurants to retail, and hashtags such as “#MeToo” and “#NejTilSexisme” (No to Sexism) have been trending.
More than 600 doctors and medical students have signed an online petition denouncing sexual harassment and gender discrimination in hospitals, clinics and universities.
Over 300 women in politics have also called on leaders to root out sexism in their profession. Their statement in Politiken included 79 anonymous testimonies of incidents ranging from offensive comments to sexual assault.
One of the four women who initiated the letter, Camilla Soee, told the BBC: “Once and for all, we wanted to prove that sexism and sexual harassment is part of the political environment.”
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has responded by saying a change of culture is now necessary. “We need to do something about that… and we’ll start on that now,” she wrote on Facebook on Saturday. Other party leaders have also promised to act.
More stories on sexism and harassment
Apology from foreign minister
The debate has also brought a 12-year-old controversy concerning Denmark’s foreign minister back into the spotlight.
Jeppe Kofod apologised this month for having sex with a 15-year-old girl following a political youth event in 2008, when he was 34 and a spokesperson for the Social Democrats.
In Denmark, the age of consent is 15.
“I wish I could change it, that it never happened,” he told Danish TV. “It happened. What I can do is to have regret, I have learned from it.”
His supporters argue that it all happened a long time ago.
And some female politicians on the right have taken issue with claims of a sexist culture in parliament, arguing that the #MeToo debate is going too far.
But the Social Liberal Party’s gender equality spokeswoman, Samira Nawa, has described the workplace culture in parliament as “rotten”. “Some industries have the ingredients needed for sexism to thrive. Media is such an industry. Politics is another,” she wrote on Facebook.
Ex-Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt urged media bosses and other leaders to do “too much rather than too little. And do it right now”.
A knock to Denmark’s reputation
Denmark prides itself on a reputation for gender equality and regularly performs highly on international measures, but some are concerned that has led to complacency.
In a recent World