Former Japan women’s national team player Yuki Nagasato broke her silence Tuesday, revealing why she chose to step away from the team. 

The 35-year-old striker left the team in 2016 prior to the Olympics, but she chose to remain silent about her decision at the time. She had spent 12 years with the national team, recording 132 appearances and 58 goals.

Nagasato won a World Cup with Japan in 2011 and finished as a runner-up in 2015. She also has an Olympic silver medal from the 2012 Olympics. But she decided to depart due to a lack of respect for players under a new coaching staff.

“Maybe I could’ve chosen to stay in a different way but I didn’t have energy and motivation to keep up with trying to make it a better place for the future,” she wrote.

Asako Takakura took over as head coach in 2016, replacing Norio Sasaki. Under Takakura, who, players were not respected as professionals “both on and off the field” and the standards did not reach the level appropriate for a national team, Nagasato wrote.

There was no right evaluation for players. There were disrespectful things for human beings,” she wrote. “This lack of professionalism made me really exhausted. I don’t know how professional I am, but I’ve learned it through my entire professional career for over 20 years in five different countries by now.”

While Nagasato took issue with the coaching staff, she later realized the issues stemmed from the national federation.

“For 7 years I’ve been silent. But I don’t want to be silent anymore,” she continued. “Because I noticed that to be silent doesn’t solve the problem. And I want the national team to be the most professional environment and they show the attractive performance with their professionalism which the kids and younger generations want to look up to, they could play there with respect in the future. And I hope they will have an impact on people around the world.” 

During the SheBelieves Cup, Nagasato spoke out about the lack of visibility for the tournament in Japan.

“To be honest, it’s almost feeling like the federation trying to ‘cancel’ what we achieved until 2015,” she wrote at the time. “It’s [been a] completely different organization after that.”

The Chicago Red Stars and Racing Louisville FC announced Tuesday that they had completed a trade, sending Yuki Nagasato back to the Windy City. In exchange, Racing received Chicago’s 2023 third round draft pick along with an international roster slot for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

“I was extremely pleased to work with Racing Louisville during its first season,” Nagasato said. “I actually didn’t want say goodbye so soon, but this decision was needed for my personal life, not just my soccer life. I got engaged to my partner who lives in Chicago, and we decided to build our life there. But I also wanted to keep playing, so I really am grateful for Racing’s understanding.

The forward arrived in Louisville as part of a trade with Chicago in 2020. In 2021, Nagasato made 21 appearances, scoring two goals.

“The club has been super supportive before, during and after the season,” she continued. “I’ll keep wishing them success in their journey. I really loved to play at our incredible stadium in front of our amazing fans. Thank you so much for your love and bringing energy to the game.”

The 2011 World Cup champion also numbered a pair of assists and scored a goal in The Women’s Cup final against FC Bayern Munich.

“Yuki and her agent approached us saying she wanted to return to Chicago for personal reasons,” said James O’Connor, Racing’s interim president. “Obviously after the impact Yuki made here, we are sad to see her go but understanding of the situation.

“We thank the Red Stars for their help and professionalism in this deal. Yuki obviously goes with our very best wishes, and we thank her for all her contributions here in Louisville.”

Louisville has been active this offseason, signing Kristen Davis out of Texas Tech and acquiring star forward Jessica McDonald from North Carolina. With the No. 2 pick in the NWSL Draft, the club also selected standout midfielder Jaelin Howell, who recently won the Mac Hermann trophy for the second-straight year.

In her prior stint with the Red Stars, Nagasato made 58 appearances, scoring 13 goals and adding 18 assists.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Yuki back to Chicago,” said Rade Tanaskovic, Acting Head Coach of the Red Stars. “We believe her veteran experience will help our incoming young players and push our team towards our ultimate goal of bringing a championship to the city of Chicago.”