Japanese women’s soccer great Yuki Nagasato said she was inspired by Megan Rapinoe’s fight for equality when she took the highly unusual step of joining a men’s team on Thursday.
Nagasato, winner of the Women’s World Cup in 2011, will play for Hayabusa Eleven, an amateur team in her local Kanagawa prefecture, on loan from the Chicago Red Stars in the American professional league.
The 33-year-old forward, who will return to the Red Stars for the 2021 season, will play as a professional for Hayabusa Eleven, her older brother Genki’s team.
“Honestly, it is unknown how much I can contribute among men,” Nagasato, also a runner-up in the 2015 World Cup and the 2012 Olympics, said in her presentation.
“But I was really inspired by the messages about Rapinoe’s gender gap at the World Cup and I was wondering if I could also send a message to society,” she said.
Rapinoe, the winner of this year’s Ballon d’Or after starring in America’s victorious World Cup campaign, is a strong advocate for social justice who has led efforts to achieve equal pay for national teams. of US men and women.
Nagasato said it was his idea to play for Hayabusa Eleven, a move he hoped would send a strong message.
“I thought I could show that women can also play on a men’s team,” he said.
“I want to help create a community where there are no limits on gender or race.”
Nagasato joined the Chicago team in 2017 and scored eight goals last year, along with eight league-leading assists.
But she said she had no ambition to play for Nadeshiko, Japan’s women’s team, at the postponed Tokyo Olympics next year.
“I really can’t imagine joining” the Olympics, he said.