Former Japan forward Mana Iwabuchi bid a tearful farewell to professional football Friday at her retirement press conference in Tokyo.

A member of three World Cup squads, including the Nadeshiko Japan team crowned champions in 2011, the 30-year-old said "the timing was right" to bring down the curtain on her career.

"I feel sadness but no regrets. I was truly happy being able to play the game I love while receiving support from so many people," she said.

Former Japan football international Mana Iwabuchi poses for photos at her retirement press conference in Tokyo on Sept. 8, 2023. (Kyodo)

The former star for Japanese powerhouses Nippon TV Beleza and INAC Kobe Leonessa played for several European clubs, including Bayern Munich and Arsenal.

Mana Iwabuchi, a member of Nadeshiko Japan's 2011 Women's World Cup-winning football squad, wipes away a tear during her retirement press conference in Tokyo on Sept. 8, 2023. (Kyodo)

She missed out on selection for this year's Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, where Japan reached the quarterfinals for the first time in two tournaments.


 

Until recently one of Nadeshiko Japan's main attacking weapons, Iwabuchi struggled after surgery on both ankles and made a loan move from Arsenal to Tottenham Hotspur in January in search of more playing time. She left Arsenal at the end of her contract in June.

"It felt like I was drifting away from the type of professional player that I ideally wanted to be. I thought about (retirement) for a year before deciding," she said.

Former Japan great Homare Sawa, who lifted the World Cup with Iwabuchi in 2011, made a surprise appearance at the press conference. She held back tears as Iwabuchi expressed her gratitude.

"Soccer is what made me who I am," Iwabuchi said. "I want to thank everyone who has helped me until now."

Former Japan football international Mana Iwabuchi (R) poses at her retirement press conference with 2011 World Cup-winning teammate Homare Sawa in Tokyo on Sept. 8, 2023. (Kyodo)

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