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May 27, 2017

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Japan's 'King Kazu' turns 50 with J-League start

YOKOHAMA -- Twinkle-toed former Japan striker Kazuyoshi Miura celebrated his 50th birthday by starting a J-League game for Yokohama FC on Sunday, marking yet another landmark in a storied career.

Miura, the oldest Japanese to play professional football, lasted 65 minutes in a 1-0 home win over second division rivals Matsumoto Yamaga as he became the first quinquagenarian to grace the J-League.

Now the golden oldie, dubbed "King Kazu" by Japanese media and fans, wants to play until he's 60.

"I want to thank the fans, players and staff for giving me this victory as a birthday present," said Miura after being serenaded by fans and presented with a cake and a bouquet.

"To be able to play for so many years I've been blessed with a lot of support," added the former Dinamo Zagreb forward, who last month signed a new one-year deal with Yokohama to take his career into a 32nd season, stretching his own record.

"I really want to thank my team mates for their help. I'll do my best to play on until I'm 60!"

Though the pin-up looks have been replaced by a few tell-tale wrinkles and greying hair, Miura still enjoys celebrity status in Japan.

Miura, who last year also broke his own mark as the J-League's oldest goalscorer at 49, received a rousing ovation from a sellout crowd of 13,000 when he was withdrawn after an industrious spell in Yokohama's season-opener.

He made 20 league appearances last season, scoring twice, but he betrayed signs of rust Sunday when he mis-kicked with his only real sight of goal.

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