FOOTBALLERS have left messages of support for their old Japanese team-mate who escaped the killer earthquake and tsunami.
Muneto Yoshizu arrived in Peterlee aged 11 in 1989, when his dad Satoui was posted to the town’s NSK plant.
He was a pupil at Shotton Hall Secondary School and played football for Shotton Boys Under-12s, where his schoolboy team-mates included former Sunderland AFC midfielder Tommy Miller and Black Cats squad member Phil Nesbitt.
He earned the nickname “goal machine,” and was tipped for big things before the family returned to Japan in 1992.
Muneto made many new friends in East Durham, who were desperate to hear he was safe after the recent devastation which rocked the nation and killed tens of thousands.
Ex-Shotton Boys Under-12s boss Tommy Miller senior, who kept in touch with Muneto over the years via regular emails, said that about 15 people had rung him for more details about their ex-school pal and team-mate.
Muneto, whose sister Madoka also lived in East Durham, is now 31 and works in insurance law and lives in Komayose, about 10 miles outside Tokyo.
The family escaped the earthquake, which measured 8.9 on the Richter scale, and devastating tsunami which followed.
Tommy, who is a member of Peterlee and District Lions Club, said he had also been in touch with Muneto’s father Satoui.
He said: “Mr Yoshizu said in his email that the ground is rumbling twice a day, and he has had to queue for petrol for one-and-a-half hours.
“They were having to buy water as it was scarce.”
The former Hartlepool United chief talent scout, from Peterlee, added: “He said hopefully everything will return to normal by May.
“He was delighted that people have been asking about him and his family.”