Women’s World Cup winner and former Japanese international, Yuki Nagasato, is set to make history as the first woman to play professionally for a men’s club after signing with Hayabusa Eleven of the Kanagawa Prefecture League in Japan.
33-year-old Nagasato was a member of the Japan women’s national soccer team that won the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup and part of the silver medal-winning London Olympic team in 2012.
Nagasato currently plays for the Chicago Red Stars but has been loaned to the men’s club for the duration of the National Women’s Soccer League offseason.
A statement released by Chicago Red Stars announced the move, saying: “Forward Yuki Nagasato is heading to Japan where she’ll make history as the first woman playing professionally for Hayabusa Eleven, an amateur men’s club as part of the Kanagawa Prefecture League.” The contractual details of Nagasato’s loan are unclear but it appears that Nagasato will be playing in a professional capacity.
Hayabusa, the men’s club in Japan which she will be joining, currently play in the second division of the Kanagawa league. This league is around eight tiers below the J-League – the top of the domestic men’s professional soccer ladder.
Nagasato has shown a willingness to play opposite men for many years, having been inspired by two-time Women’s World Cup champion and Olympic gold medallist Megan Rapinoe, a co-captain of the United States national team known for her activism on and off the field.
“I was really inspired by messages on gender gap by Rapinoe at the World Cup and I was wondering if I could also send a message to the society,” said Nagasato.
“I thought I could show that women can also play in a men’s team.”
The Japanese star has played more than 130 times for her country, including a substitute appearance in Japan’s win against the United States in the 2011 World Cup final. She also played in the 2007 and 2015 World Cups.
According to the Red Stars, Nagasato will return for the start of the NWSL preseason in 2021. She is expected to make her debut for Hayabusa in or after October.
Get to know the Japanese star here: