World football’s most seasoned veteran began yet another new chapter at the weekend as former Japan international Kazuyoshi Miura made his debut in the Portuguese league at the age of 56.

After setting all manner of age-defying records in his home country, “King Kazu” recently joined second-tier side Oliveirense on loan from Yokohama FC and made his first appearance for them on Saturday, coming on in the final minute of a 4-1 win over Academico de Viseu.

According to a report on the Portuguese league’s official website, Miura’s brief appearance made him “the oldest footballer ever to play in Portuguese football” at the age of 56 years, one month and 24 days — another impressive milestone in the well-travelled striker’s extraordinary career.

Since making his very first senior appearance in 1986 with Brazilian club Santos, Miura has represented clubs in six different countries including Genoa, Dinamo Zagreb and Sydney FC. Still going strong 38 seasons later, the forward also won 89 caps for Japan (the last of which came 23 years ago), winning the Asian Cup in 1992 before becoming his country’s second highest all-time scorer with 55 goals to his name.

Incredibly, even a player as experienced as “King Kazu” is still far too young to be eligible to play in Japan’s newest football division, which is specifically for players aged 80 and over.

Based in Tokyo, the SFL (“Soccer For Life”) league first introduced a 0-60 age-group league in 2003. The 0-70 league was then launched in 2012, followed by a 0-75 league in 2017.

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Japan has one of the oldest populations in the world, with around a third of its 125 million inhabitants aged 65 and over, while the nation’s average life expectancy is 85. So it’s only logical that the SFL has now seen fit to establish a 0-80 league to cater for Tokyo’s oldest active football fanatics.

The SFL 0-80 league has begun with three teams — White Bears, Red Star and Blue Hawaii – who have an average player age of 83 and play 30-minute games split into two 15-minute halves.

Several former professional players are taking part including 83-year-old Mutsuhiko Nomura, who played for Hitachi FC (now Kashiwa Reysol) in the 1960s and 70s and was even named Japanese Footballer of the Year in 1972 before retiring three years later.

“When I was a kid, men in their 50s and 60s were considered ‘grandpas,'” Nomura told Reuters following a SFL practice match in February. “And now, we’re all still at it in our 80s. It’s shocking.”

The oldest player taking part is 93-year-old White Bears goalkeeper Shingo Shiozawa, who used to design sports cars for a living as a younger man. Shiozawa credits his revived amateur football career with helping him to quit smoking.

“It must be 30 years since I was the goalkeeper in a match,” Shiozawa told CNA. “I played in other positions but they were a lot more painful than being a goalkeeper!”

Of course, “King Kazu” may yet make his debut in the Tokyo SFL Over-80s league but he’ll have to wait until the 2047 season kicks off before he’s ready to make to step up to join the seniors.

Information from Reuters was used in this report

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‘King Kazu,’ 56, is too young for Japan’s new over-80 league