Former Japan international Matsuda dies at 34

Former Japan international Naoki Matsuda died in a hospital in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on Thursday afternoon after failing to recover from an acute myocardial infarction suffered while training with JFL club Matsumoto Yamaga.
He was 34.
    Matsuda, who played for Japan in the 2002 World Cup, collapsed after running with his teammates on Tuesday morning. He lost consciousness and was taken to hospital, where he was put on an artificial respirator.
According to league officials, Matsuda received medical checks in late January and early February and cleared them without any problem.

    Japanese football officials were stunned by the news.
    JFA President Junji Ogura commented: “It is so sad to hear the news of his sudden death. He played well for us in the 2002 World Cup and this season he embarked on a new challenge at Matsumoto Yamaga to try and help them gain promotion to the J. League. It’s a terrible shame for him and for us that he had to give up this challenge halfway through. We won’t forget his splendid performances and would like to go on in the manner in which he fought and do our best for the development of football.”
    Saburo Kawabuchi, JFA Honorary President, who watched Matsuda play last month, commented: “I am lost for words at this sad news. I remember him best at the Asian Cup in 2004. He was supporting the team as a reserve member but worked tirelessly in training, and when the team won the tournament he was so happy. I believe his attitude and hard work helped the team win the Cup. I would like to express my condolences from the bottom of my heart.”
    JFA Vice-president and General Secretary Kozo Tashima, who formerly coached the Japan under-17 side, said: “He was a larger-than-life figure. I traveled to matches when he was with the Japan under-17 team. He won a regular position under [Philippe] Troussier, although he sometimes turned away from Troussier. He had a special personality and capability at international level. I was hoping to see him do well at Matsumoto, so it is incredibly sad and disappointing to lose him.”

    Former Japan coach Takeshi Okada worked with Matsuda at Yokohama Marinos.
“Matsu was in my team when we won the J. League two years in a row at Marinos [in 2003 and 2004] and helped the team as captain in the first year, as well as being a leading player. He was someone who always made a strong impression. I was expecting him to play well this season after moving to Matsumoto, so this news is very regrettable.”
    Marinos President Akira Kaetsu commented: “Matsuda came to one of our games at Nissan Stadium only five days ago and he looked fine, as he always did. It’s hard for us to accept this is true. We, the players, coaches, staff and everyone on the club, are completely lost for words with this sudden sad news. We cannot do anything but pray for the repose of his soul and extend our deep condolences to his family.”

    JFL Chairman Katsuyoshi Kuwahara added his voice: “It is so shocking to hear the news of his death as we were hoping desperately that he would recover. We were so happy and thankful for the contribution he made to our league. After he joined Matsumoto Yamaga, we had far more media exposure and spectators than before. We lost a great treasure from Japanese football.”

    Matsuda was capped 40 times for Japan and scored once following his debut in 1999. He had been playing for his country in younger categories since 1992, including the 1993 Under-17 World Championship, the 1995 World Youth Championship and the 1996 and 2000 Olympics.
    Matsuda played for the Yokohama F. Marinos for 16 seasons from 1995 to 2010, appearing in 492 games and scoring 26 goals before moving to Matsumoto Yamaga this year. This season, he played in all 15 matches as Yamaga eyed promotion to the J. League.
    As a tribute to Matsuda, players and officials in the J. League and JFL will wear black armbands this weekend and silent prayers will be offered before all games. Flags will fly at half-mast.