Hidetoshi Nakata, born in January 22nd 1977, is a former professional soccer player from Yamanashi prefecture Kofu city. When he was in junior high school, he was selected for the U-15 Japan national team. He received attention as a promising athlete that would lead future generations. Nakata is the only Japanese footballer who appeared and scored goals on all of major international tournaments such as U-17 world championship, World U-20 Cup, Olympics, Confederations Cup and World Cup.
While he was enrolled in the famous Nirasaki High School he received offers from 11 J. League clubs and after graduation he joined Bellmare Hiratsuka. After becoming pro, he soon established himself as a regular and on his 3rd season in 1997 he was chosen as the J. League’s Best XI. On top of that he won the Japan’s MVP and Asian MVP award.
When he was 19 years old he was called up for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Japan squad, where he helped the team win against Brazil during the “Miami Miracle”. After he got picked for the senior national team at the 1997 Asian qualifiers for France World Cup, then in the play-off match against Iran he participated in every earned point and led the Japanese national team to their first World Cup.
Sadly the Samurai Blue lost in the group stages of the France World Cup, but Nakata’s performance in the tournament attracted attention from the European Clubs Association and after the competition Nakata transferred to Serie A’s Perugia.
After joining the Serie A at the age of 21, during the 1998-1999 season’s opening match against Zidane’s Juventus, Hide scored 2 decisive goals, starting off his debut in style.
As a midfielder he earned 10 goals and was selected for the Serie A surprise award that was given to foreign players.
In the middle of the next season he transferred to the famous A.S. Roma. Battling it out for position with Francesco Totti, as well as being a foreigner had it’s tough moments, but in the 2001- 2002 season he helped them win the Scudetto and left his mark as the first Japanese footballer in history to win the Serie A championship.
He also played as a member of the 2000 Sydney Olympics Japan national team and helped the team advance to the quarter finals, but in the penalty shoot-out against America he missed as the 4th kicker, which meant the game ended in defeat for them.
After that he transferred to Parma and in the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup he was the backbone of the team, managing to pull the team to the best of 16. On their 3rd group stage match against Tunisia he scored his first World Cup goal.
From 2003 he has played for Bologna, Fiorentina and England Premier League’s Bolton Wanderers for a short period of time. The 2006 Germany World Cup was his third time entering this major tournament, but with 1 draw and 2 losses it was a crushing defeat. After the end of the tournament, he announced his retirement.