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Newly married Japanese soccer star Iwashimizu aims to return after maternity leave

Azusa Iwashimizu is seen in this file photo taken in March 2016. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Soccer star Azusa Iwashimizu has tied the knot and is pregnant, her soccer club Nippon TV Beleza announced on Oct. 14.

Iwashimizu, 33, is a former member of the national women's soccer team, known as Nadeshiko Japan. "I thought about retiring at least once, but I will take maternity leave and aim to return to official matches next season," she said in a comment released through her team Beleza in the Japan Women's Football League first division.

Iwashimizu stated, "I never imagined I would have my coming-of-age ceremony and become a mom while belonging to this club. I am very happy to be blessed with the chance to have a child."

"My current dream is to carry my own child onto the pitch, which has become a common practice among male soccer players. But for now, I will take a rest and dream of eventually walking hand in hand with my child when I retire."

The 33-year-old played for Japan when the nation won the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup in Germany. She mainly competed as a defender in the 2007 event in China and in the 2015 competition in Canada, when Japan finished in second place. Iwashimizu also appeared in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and in the 2012 London Olympics, in which Japan earned a silver medal.

(Japanese original by Chisa Fukuda, Sports News Department)

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