The 40-times capped defender, who was just 34, passed away earlier today, two days after suffering a heart attack during training with his third tier club, Matsumoto Yamaga. He was a much-loved figure in his homeland, and played in all four of Japan’s matches as they achieved a historic place in the last 16 at the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ on home soil.
Upon learning that Matsuda had lost his brave fight for life, Blatter was quick to convey his condolences, writing: “It is with a sad heart that I write to you today, having learned of the tragic passing of Naoki Matsuda – the legendary defender of the national team of Japan.
“On behalf of FIFA and the worldwide family of football, I wish to extend our condolences to you, to the Japanese football community and, most importantly, to Naoki Matsuda’s friends and loved ones. Please let them know that today the football community stands by their side.”