Former Japan international defender Naoki Matsuda died yesterday, two days after collapsing with a heart attack during training, leaving the country’s shocked soccer community in mourning.
His sudden death aged just 34 was announced by his club Matsumoto Yamaga of the Japan Football League, the third-tier division, where he moved this year after 16 years at J-League first-division side Yokohama Marinos.
Matsuda fell into a coma after a warm-up run on Tuesday morning. He was rushed to hospital, where he was put on life support.
Fans, along with past and present teammates, flocked to the hospital in the mountain city of Matsumoto, 180km northwest of Tokyo, as Matsuda fought for his life. He never regained consciousness.
His death came just over two weeks after Japan’s women’s team won the World Cup for the first time.
Matsuda, who was capped 40 times for his country, had a reputation for being gutsy and was unusually tall for a Japanese at 183cm.
The right-back played all four of Japan’s matches at the 2002 World Cup, when the Blue Samurai reached the last 16 at home.
However, his international career ended in 2005 when he fell out with then-national coach and Brazilian legend Zico.