I have no regrets, says retiring Sawa

Tokyo, December 17

Japanese women’s football great Homare Sawa on Thursday formally announced her decision to retire, saying she can no longer compete at the top of her game.

“Homare Sawa will retire after this season,” she said in a nationally televised press conference. “It has become difficult to fight at the top level with my psychological and physical conditions in unison.”

News of Sawa’s retirement plan emerged on Wednesday through her agent and was already heavily reported with Japanese media anticipating her formal announcement. The 37-year-old midfielder, FIFA women’s player of the year in 2011 and an inspiration for Japanese sports fans, said, however, that she had no regrets about the move. “It was the biggest decision of my life,” she said.

Sawa scored 83 goals in 205 appearances for Japan in a career that extended over six World Cups including Japan’s 2011 victory. Sawa, who got married earlier this year, said she has been considering retirement since last year. But Japan’s 5-2 defeat against the United States in the final of this year’s World Cup in Canada solidified her decision.

Sawa has long been one of Japan’s most admired athletes on and off the pitch. She was the skipper in Japan’s successful campaign to secure the World Cup trophy in Germany in July 2011, when she became the top scorer with five goals and the most valuable player of the tournament in victory over the United States.

Sawa was called up to Japan’s international squad at age 15 and quickly became a core player in what was then a minority sport as men’s football steadily gained widespread popularity. The spectacular 2011 WC win through penalty shootout triggered an explosion in popularity of women’s football in Japan, which was hungry for good news after the Fukushima nuclear crisis four months earlier.