Richmond Kickers News Release -- www.richmondkickers.com
Friday, August 31, 2012
RICHMOND, Va. – Richmond Kickers midfielder, Nozomi Hiroyama, officially announced his retirement from professional soccer on Thursday.
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to finish my career in Richmond,” said Hiroyama. “Although I have played 17 seasons as a professional player, I was still able to acquire valuable experience over these last two seasons and winning U.S. Open Cup games against Major League Soccer Teams was one of the highlights of my career. I wish the Richmond Kickers all the best in the future and am truly grateful to my teammates, coaches, front office staff and fans that support this top-class organization.”
The Japanese international made 47 appearances with the Kickers over two seasons, including playing a major role in the club’s historic run to the U.S. Open Cup Semifinals in 2011. Logging nearly 2,000 minutes in a Kickers uniform, he posted two goals and two assists.
Hiroyama joined the Kickers prior to the 2011 season after an extensive playing career that spanned four continents over 15 years. Entering the J.League in 1996, at the age of 18, the native of Chiba, Japan made 146 appearances with JEF United Ichihara. In 2001, Hiroyama was transferred to Paraguayan side Cerro Porteño, where he became the first Japanese player ever to score a goal in a Copa Libertadores match.
The following season, he made 10 appearances with Sporting Braga in Portugal before signing with Montpellier HSC of France’s Ligue 1. He continued to set milestones, becoming the first Japanese player to appear in France’s top division, having achieved the same distinction in Portugal.
After a one-year stint in France, Hiroyama returned to the J.League where he made 79 appearances with Tokyo Verdy 1969 and 15 appearances with Cerezo Osaka over five seasons. Most recently, the Japanese international played in 73 games with J.League Division 2 side Thespa Kusatsu.
Representing his country as a member of the U18, U19 and U20 National Teams, Hiroyama earned a pair of caps with the full Japanese National team in 2001 and 2003.