Legendary Japanese footballer Shinji ‘Genius’ Ono retires at age 44: A look back at his illustrious career

Shinji Ono (centre) poses with his Feyenoord after they won the 2002 UEFA Cup (DAMIEN MEYER)

Japanese soccer legend Shinji Ono announced his retirement from the game at the age of 44, concluding a remarkable career that marked him as the first player from Japan to clinch a European club trophy.

Ono achieved this feat as part of the Feyenoord team, which emerged victorious against Borussia Dortmund in the 2002 UEFA Cup final, during his successful four-year tenure with the Dutch club.

As an attacking midfielder, Ono was at the forefront of a groundbreaking wave of Japanese players venturing to Europe in the late 1990s and early 2000s, joining the likes of Hidetoshi Nakata and Kazuyoshi Miura.

Nicknamed “Genius”, Ono made his international debut at the age of 18 and represented Japan in the 1998 World Cup in France shortly after his debut.

Throughout his career, he played in three World Cups, earning 56 caps and scoring six international goals.

Ono’s achievements include being named Asian Player of the Year in 2000. He also had successful stints with clubs in Germany and Australia, winning the A-League Premiership with Western Sydney Wanderers in 2013.

Additionally, he secured victories in the J. League and Asian Champions League with Urawa Red Diamonds, and triumphed in the 2000 Asian Cup with Japan.

On Sunday, Ono marked his final appearance for Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in a 2-0 defeat to Urawa on the final day of the J. League season.

Several of his former Japan teammates, including 56-year-old striker ‘King Kazu’ Miura, are still actively playing in their 40s and beyond.



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