Olympic FC Club Legend, Kazuya Ito has announced he will retire at the conclusion of his sides 2020 NPL Queensland campaign.
Ito, who has made a club record 168 NPL Queensland appearances in red and white will play his final match at Goodwin Park in Sunday’s Semi Final against Gold Coast Knights (6pm KO).
The versatile Japanese maestro was part of the side that won the NPL Queensland Grand Final and Premiership in 2013 and is the only player to have appeared in all five of Olympic’s FFA Cup national round fixtures.
Earlier this year, the 34-year-old’s status amongst the competition’s elite was confirmed with Ito named in the NPL Queensland All-Time Eleven.
As well as making a significant impact on the pitch as player during his eight seasons at Olympic, Ito has also been a driving force as a coach in the club’s junior programs overseeing a number of SAP & academy teams throughout his time at the club.
Ito said he was incredibly proud of his time at the club and thanked everyone who helped make it his second home.
“This isn’t a quick decision, I’ve been thinking about it for some time now it’s about seeing how my body is and how my motivation is,” Ito said.
“If it wasn’t for Ben (Cahn) I think I could’ve easily retired two or three years ago, but the environment he’s created has been so professional, tactical and detailed like when I was playing in Japan.
“Every training and every game has been so enjoyable, it’s been an amazing few years, my condition and performance have been the best since Ben’s come in, this season was the first time i’ve played and started in every game.
“I don’t want keep playing until I can’t run, I want to finish when I can still play and be remembered as the player that I truly can be.
“I’m incredibly proud to have been part of this group and finish my career in an environment where a number of great players such as Alex Smith, Shane Stefanutto and Danny Byrne have finished theirs too.
“2018 & 2019 we couldn’t win the final, we have to win this time round, there’s big pressure but I enjoy that pressure and no doubt we’ve got the team to do it.
“This is my second home, there are no words to describe how much the club means to me.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone, from the players, coaches, supporters, committee and everyone around the club from not only me but also my wife and son, we’re very appreciative of everything you’ve done for us,” Ito concluded.
Olympic Head Coach, Ben Cahn said Ito’s impact at the Club was immeasurable.
“It’s probably fair to say that no one person has contributed more to Olympic in the last decade than Kazu.”
“The level he’s been able to sustain on the pitch and the quality he’s brought to the NPL in Queensland for the last eight years is phenomenal.
“The way he conducts himself at training every day, the way he’s looked after his body and the example he sets for the rest of the squad, especially the younger players is second to none.
“His professionalism, humility and his ability to put the team first is everything a coach can ask for in a player and I can’t thank him enough for how much he’s contributed to the first team environment and the positive influence he’s had on all of us.
“His impact goes beyond what he’s done as a player, he’s put so much time in to working with players at all levels and ages at the club.
“I know I speak on behalf of everyone at Olympic when I say there aren’t enough words to describe how highly thought of he is and how much of an impact he’s had on so many people and the football club as a whole.
“I’m very honoured and very lucky to have been a part of his outstanding football career, and even luckier to have been part of his journey as a human and a friend.
“It’s up to the players now to make sure he finishes his time at Olympic with a trophy and to carry his legacy in to next season and beyond,” Cahn concluded.
Despite his time as a player at the club coming to an end, Ito’s affiliation with Olympic doesn’t finish here. Stay tuned.
2013 NPL Queensland Champion
2013 NPL Queensland Premier
NPL Queensland All Time XI
2014 NPL Queensland Team of the Season