Masahiro Fukuda never gained the level of stardom that some other leading players of his generation achieved, despite the fact that he was the first Japanese player to lead the league in scoring, and was the captain of Urawa Reds for nearly half of his decade-long career in Urawa. This lack of "stardom" says a great deal about the quiet and self-effacing Fukuda, who nevertheless endeared himself to teammates and fans alike, earning the nickname "Mr. Reds".
With 94 goals to his credit, over a ten year J.League career, Fukuda might easily have surpassed the century mark had it not been for a serious injury he suffered, virtually at the peak of his career. Fukuda scored 32 goals in 50 matches in 1995, leading the J.League, but injury caused him to miss all but four matches in the 1996 season. Nevertheless, Fukuda bounced back to score 21 goals in 1997 before age slowly began to catch up with him.
By 2002, the World Cup year in Japan, Fukuda was clearly nearing the end, and with several months left to go in the season, announced that 2002 would be his final year as a player. The outpouring of respect and thanks from fans around the league -- even those of Urawa's bitterest rivals -- was truly amazing.
Fukuda played his final match at the brand-new Saitama Stadium, near the end of 2002, in an exhibition match that featured dozens of the top players from the J.League's first decade. A packed house stood and chanted their signature "Get the Goal Fukuda" song, as he made two complete circuits of the stadium, followed by dozens of support staff who collected all of the flower bouquets that fans tossed to him. In a final gesture, Fukuda stopped just in front of the entry to the clubhouse, bowed one last time to the fans, and removed his cleats for the final time, tossing them one by one high into the stands, to provide two lucky individuals with a historic memento.
Fukuda continues to be a popular face for J.League fans, as a colour commentator on TV broadcasts. Though other players may have achieved greater feats statistically, few have won the hearts of fans as completely as Fukuda did with the Saitama Red Army.