Japanese Soccer “Genius” Shinji Ono, 44, to End Career

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Shinji Ono

TOKYO, Sept. 27 (Jiji Press) — Japanese soccer “genius” Shinji Ono, who played for the Japanese national team at three consecutive FIFA World Cup tournaments, said Wednesday that he will retire at the end of this season.

“I decided to stop my career as a player at the end of this season because my feet, which have been my partner for the 39 years since I started playing, are asking for a break,” Ono said in a statement released on Wednesday, his 44th birthday.

The midfielder currently plays for Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in the J1 top division of the Japan Professional Football League, or J.League.

With outstanding skills and surprising passes, Ono has played for many years in Japan and overseas. He participated in the 1998 World Cup in France, the 2002 tournament cohosted by Japan and South Korea, and the 2006 tournament in Germany.

He is still Japan’s youngest-ever player at a World Cup, after appearing at the age of 18 in the finals in France.

Ono played a central role in the “golden generation” of talented Japanese players. Japan finished runners-up at the FIFA World Youth Championship in 1999.

Born in Numazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, central Japan, Ono joined Urawa Red Diamonds, a J.League team, in 1998 and moved to Feyenoord Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 2001.

However, Ono suffered from injuries, but continued to play. He returned to Urawa in 2006 and also played for VfL Bochum 1848 in Germany, Shimizu S-Pulse in Japan and other teams.

Ono has played in 206 J1 matches and scored 29 goals. He scored six goals in 56 international A matches for the Japanese national team.