Japanese soccer has been rocked by the death of a true legend of the game. Champion defender Naoki Matsuda passed away after collapsing at a routine training session. The 34-year-old will be remembered for the 40 caps he made for the Japanese national side.
Reports, including those from Goal.com, say that Matsuda's death resulted after doctors diagnosed the Japanese defender with an "extremely critical" condition. After being rushed to the hospital from his club's training, Matsuda spent two days under the care of hospital staff who worked tirelessly to try and resolve his condition.
It is believed that Matsuda suffered a cardiac arrest during his training session. He subsequently passed away on Thursday, at 13:06 local time.
Reaction from Japan is that of complete disbelief. The Bangkok Post reported that current and former teammates of the player flocked to his bedside to try and help along his recovery. In an interview, Celtic star Shunsuke Nakamura said "He was dynamic in every aspect and he was a kind of big brother for everyone in a positive sense,"
Matsuda was passionate about the game in every sense, in a speech he gave only a few years back to his Yokohama teammates, he said "Seriously, I love football for the heck of it,". He will be remembered for his talent on the pitch and gentleman nature off it.
Naoki Matsuda, the football community salutes you and Japanese football thanks you. Rest in peace, a true champion of the game.