FRISCO, Texas – Every year, North Texas SC has a breakout player. And it’s rarely the one you’d expect. In its inaugural season in 2019, it was Arturo Rodriguez. Originally signed as a practice player to make up the numbers, Rodriguez ended up being the USL League One MVP after finishing as the assist leader and scoring the game-winner in the championship game. Last year, Justin Che announced himself as a major prospect after playing all 16 games and being included in the League One Best XI as a 16-year-old.
In 2021, North Texas’ breakout player has arguably been Christian Kendji Wagatsuma Ferreira—better known by his nickname, Kazu.
Born in Maringá, Brazil, Kazu is of Japanese descent thanks to his great grandparents who emigrated from Osaka to the soccer-crazed nation in 1908. Kazu learned his trade in the youth teams of Grêmio and Coritiba FC before joining North Texas on loan in February of 2021. Although he began the season in his natural left back position, Kazu soon moved further forward to the left wing.
“I’m very happy to be in Texas,” Kazu said. “It’s my first experience playing outside of Brazil. I’m happy and doing whatever it takes to succeed here…I think I’m adapting well. I played left wing a couple of times in Brazil so that helps but I’m still adapting to it here. The team and coaching staff are helping the transition to be as quick as possible, so I’m happy with the change.”
The 21-year-old has taken to his new attacking role quickly and leads the team with six goals on the year.
“I’m happy to be leading the team in scoring,” he said. “Of course, it’s not just me, the credit goes to the team for helping me to be in those positions in front of the goal. I just know that whenever I get the chance in front of goal, I have to score. I’m happy that things are going well in that area and I hope I can keep scoring.”
Kazu’s recent goal-scoring exploits are reminiscent of his namesake, King Kazu—the legendary Japan international forward. King Kazu (whose real name is Kazuyoshi Miura and is the oldest active soccer player in the world at 54 years old) played for Coritiba FC in the late 1980s. So, when the younger Kazu joined Coritiba’s first team, the nickname was passed on.
King Kazu was even gracious enough to send the new Kazu a personalized message on Instagram.
If you watch Kazu play, you’ll notice he wears an unconventional jersey number:
“At Grêmio, when I moved up to the first team from the academy, I asked my mom what number I should take,” Kazu explained. “One day, she woke up and opened the window and saw a butterfly with the shape of 88 on its wings. She thought it was a sign and told me to take 88 as my number.”
Catchy nicknames and unique numbers aside, Kazu has two very clear goals in mind for his near future.
“I’m really focused here on winning the championship with North Texas and finishing the season well,” he said. “My long-term objective is to get to the FC Dallas first team, and I’m working hard to get a chance to do that.”
To honor Kazu's contributions this season, North Texas SC will be giving away club branded Kazoos for its home match against New England Revolution II on Saturday, Oct. 23 at 7:30PM. Tickets for the match can be purchased HERE