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Hidetoshi Nakata

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Hidetoshi Nakata (中田 英寿 Nakata Hidetoshi; born January 22, 1977 in Yamanashi Prefecture), is a Japanese former football player. He was one of the most famous Asian footballers of his generation.

Nakata announced his retirement at age 29 on July 3, 2006 after a ten-year career that included seven seasons in the Italian Serie A and a season in the English Premiership.

Nakata began his professional career at age 18 in 1995, with J. League side Bellmare Hiratsuka (now Shonan Bellmare). He represented Japan at the 1996 Olympics, where Japan upset Brazil. Nakata also appeared in the 2000 Olympics.

He made his senior national team debut in May 1997 against South Korea and was a key member of the Japanese side that qualified for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, setting up all three Japanese goals in the qualification play-off against Iran. After the World Cup in France, he moved to Perugia in Italy's Serie A.

In January 2000, after one and a half seasons at Perugia, Nakata moved to Roma, whom he helped win the Serie A championship with two late goals to secure a 2-2 draw against league rivals Juventus. He also helped Japan reach the final of the 2001 Confederations Cup that season, but left the national team before the final to join Roma for their final league matches.

Nakata played in every match for Japan at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, co-hosted by South Korea and Japan, and scored a goal against Tunisia.

In January 2004, Nakata joined Bologna where he played the remainder of the 2003/04 season before moving to Fiorentina, where he played the 2004/05 season.

At the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Nakata played in all three matches for Japan, losing to Australia and Brazil, and drawing with Croatia. Although Nakata has appeared in every World Cup match that Japan has played thus far, he was not selected for the country's Asian Cup-winning squads in either 2000 or 2004.

On July 3, 2006, Nakata announced his retirement from professional football and the Japanese national team on his personal website "I decided half a year ago that I would retire from the world of professional football... after the World Cup in Germany," Nakata wrote, "I will never again stand on the pitch as a professional player. But I will never give up football."

Nakata has cited the popular manga and anime series, Captain Tsubasa, as his primary inspiration in choosing football as a career.

On June 7, 2007, he made an appearance in Thu Wa Na Youth Training Stadium in Yangon, Myanmar , in a charity game. He played 45 minutes each for the red and the white teams made up of myanmar footballers and celebrities. The jerseys of both teams read "We Love Nakata".

On June 9, 2007, he made an appearance on the pitch again when he played for Luís Figo's Charity Match.

Outside of football Nakata has shown interest in fashion, attending runway shows, wearing designer clothing and sporting colorful haircuts. He dyed his hair red for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, hoping to attract the attention of European scouts, and Japanese hairstylist Aki Watanabe credits him as a trendsetter in hair styles. Andrea Tenerani, photographer for GQ in Italy said of Nakata, "He's perfect; he's like a model. And he's totally obsessed with fashion," and Calvin Klein designer Italo Zucchelli said, "(Nakata) plays with fashion like all of them now, but in a cooler, more sophisticated way than many others." He is currently featured in the July 2007 US version of GQ Magazine with a 12-page spread on Fall Fashion.


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