SAPPORO, Dec 3 — Japanese great Shinji Ono retired from football at the age of 44 on Sunday, ending a career that saw him become the first player from his country to win a European club trophy.
Ono was part of the Feyenoord team that beat Borussia Dortmund in the 2002 Uefa Cup final, during a successful four-year stint with the Dutch club.
The attacking midfielder was part of a pioneering wave of Japanese players moving to Europe in the late 1990s and early 2000s, along with Hidetoshi Nakata and Kazuyoshi Miura.
Nicknamed “Genius”, Ono made his international debut as an 18-year-old and played for Japan at the 1998 World Cup in France two months later.
He played at three World Cups and won 56 caps, scoring six international goals.
Ono was named Asian player of the year in 2000 and also had stints with clubs in Germany and Australia, winning the A-League Premiership with Western Sydney Wanderers in 2013.
He also won the J. League and Asian Champions League with Urawa Red Diamonds and the 2000 Asian Cup with Japan.
Ono made his final appearance Sunday 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 team-mates are still playing into their 40s and beyond, including 56-year-old striker ‘King Kazu’ Miura. — AFP