A FORMER Japanese football ace who became a local celebrity as a youngster has let his old soccer pals know he escaped the killer earthquake and tsunami unharmed.
Muneto Yoshizu appeared in the Mail regularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s after he astounded football bosses with his goal-scoring talents.
“Goal-machine” Muneto arrived in Peterlee aged 11 in 1989 when his father was posted to the Peterlee NSK plant, and the family set up home in the town’s Bywell Drive.
He was a pupil at Shotton Hall Secondary School and helped the Shotton Boys Under-12s team to victory, netting 33 of the team’s goals in one season.
He was tipped to be the first Japanese player in the Football League before the family moved back to Japan in 1992.
Now Tommy Miller, a founder member of the Shotton Boys team, who kept in touch with Muneto over the years, has breathed a sigh of relief after making email contact with his former protege.
But he says married Muneto is still fearful for his and his family’s safety as they prepare for a second earthquake.
Tommy, father of former Hartlepool United midfielder Tommy junior, who played with Muneto at Shotton Boys, said: “We email each other four times a year and I have just had an email back.
“He says ‘we are all safe and well, we just fear for the second earthquake now’.”
Tommy, who was chief talent scout for Hartlepool United from the late 1990s until a few years ago, said: “He came into my thoughts with all the horrible news about the earthquake.
“It was my turn to email him, so I did.
“I also looked on this website where you type someone’s name in and it tells you how far they are from the site of the earthquake and tsunami.
“It’s a big relief to hear from him. There will be many people wondering how Muneto is, a lot of people knew the kid and he used to be popular at Shotton Hall school.”
Tommy, who is a member of Peterlee and District Lions Club, added: “Muneto was a goal machine and we won lots of trophies - we swept the board.”
As well as Tommy junior, who now plays for Sheffield Wednesday, Muneto’s schoolboy team-mates included former Pools player and ex-Manchester United youth team member Stuart Brightwell and former Sunderland squad member Phil Nesbitt.
Muneto, whose sister Madoka will also be remembered in east Durham, is now 31 and works in insurance law and lives in Komayose.
Rather than continuing with his football, he now has a keen interest in golf and tennis.
According to the latest figures, 6,405 people are dead and about 10,200 are missing following last Friday’s tsunami and earthquake, which measured 8.9 on the Richter scale, in Sendai.
The country is on nuclear alert following damage to core reactors at the Fukushima power plant.