Tsuneyasu Miyamoto is one of the most recognisable names in Japanese football. As well as captaining his national team at both the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups™, the defender won the AFC Asian Cup in 2004. Furthermore, he participated in the 2003 and 2005 FIFA Confederations Cups, the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament in 2000 and won the Japanese title in 2005 with Gamba Osaka.
The 71-time international hung up his boots in 2011 and has since begun the FIFA Master postgraduate study program as well as acting as an ambassador for the FIFA Club World Cup 2012. After assisting at the official tournament draw, the 35-year-old took time out to speak to FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: What does your role as ambassador for the FIFA Club World Cup mean to you?
Tsuneyasu Miyamoto: It’s a big honour, especially as the tournament is taking place in my homeland exactly ten years after my first World Cup. That makes it an anniversary of sorts for me, having recently embarked on my ‘second career.’
How much are you looking forward to the tournament?
Enormously. Some of the best teams in the world, including Chelsea and Corinthians will be playing. The Japanese fans can’t wait to watch entertaining and exciting games.
Who are your favourites to win the title?
Chelsea. In my opinion the Champions League is the best and hardest-fought continental competition. As European champions, Chelsea have to be among the top contenders to win the Club World Cup.
You ended your playing career last year. How much do you miss playing?
I miss it a bit, but from time to time I still have the opportunity to play with friends. After 17 years as a professional I decided to end my career and I can live with that decision.
Japan won the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011™, the men’s side triumphed at the AFC Asian Cup and at London 2012 both Japanese teams were impressive. Is Japan currently No1 in Asian football?
In terms of technique, discipline and organisation Japan is leading the way, but there are other top teams in Asia. Therefore we need to keep working to improve, but we’re definitely on the right track.
Increasing numbers of Japanese players are moving abroad, especially to Europe. What’s your take on that?
A lot of Japanese players are at European clubs. That’s the aim of many players and it’s good for the future development of Japanese football.