The “God of Football” came to Japan in 1991. Although Zico had once hang up his boots, he was back to join Sumitomo Metal Industries Factory Football Club (which later became Kashima Antlers), two years ahead of the creation of the J.League.
Zico was already 40 on the opening of the J.League in 1993, but that day Kashima’s number 10 put on an incredible performance. He scored three goals, including an amazing free-kick to become the first player to score a hat-trick in the history of the league.
Led by Zico’s great talent, Kashima won the First Stage, even though ahead of the season they were singled out as one of the weakest teams. In 1993 Zico could not play many games due to physical limitations, but scored nine goals in 16 appearances. He also netted five goals in seven games the following year, but announced his retirement after the First Stage.
From his wonderful technique to his exemplary professionalism, Zico’s influence on Japanese football is immense. He maintained his bond with Antlers and was appointed Technical Advisor in 1995. Later he became the head coach of the Japanese national team in 2002 and took the team to the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
Currently he is back at Kashima and supports the team as Technical Director.