Tokyo - Tsuneyasu Miyamoto, Japan's captain at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, announced his retirement Monday to take up a course to become a sports executive, in a bid to lift the status of Japanese football.
The 34-year-old defender, who played for Austria's Salzburg in 2007 and 2008, said he would retire by turning down offers from several sides including his current J-League club Kobe Vissel and a team in Thailand for next season.
Miyamoto was nicknamed "Batman" after grabbing world media attention for wearing a black mask to cover his broken nose during the 2002 World Cup at home when the Blue Samurai reached the last 16.
"I don't think there is a big role left for me to play on the pitch," he told Japanese media on Monday, adding he would enrol next September in a 10-month postgraduate course endorsed by football's world governing body FIFA.
The FIFA Master programme is designed to develop "all-round managers who can cope with the increasingly complex world of sport", according to its organiser, the International Centre for Sport Studies.
"People will gather there from around the world and I want to cultivate future contacts for Japan," said Miyamoto. "I want to make a contribution to help raise the status of Japanese football."
His proficiency in English, a rare quality among Japanese players, is expected to help him through the course, which is provided at three universities in Britain, Italy and Switzerland.
He has usually played centre back, despite being relatively short at 1.76m (5ft 9in), since his professional debut with Gamba Osaka in 1995.