February 01, 2011 10:37
Korean football captain Park Ji-sung officially announced his retirement from the national team at a press conference on Monday. "I'm stepping down from the national team so that junior players can have more opportunities," said the Manchester United midfielder nicknamed "Three-Lung Park" for his ability to run 12 km during a 90-minute match.
Park played in 100 international matches over 11 years, from his debut against Laos on April 5, 2000 until the AFC Asian Cup semifinal against Japan last week, and recorded 13 goals. He is one of the most decorated Korean footballers in history.
Considering the number of international matches played, Park is not at the top of the list of players in the Century Club like Hong Myung-bo, who played in 135 matches in 12 years, and Hwang Sun-hong, who played 130 in 14.
But unlike many others who had their professional career in Korea, Park had to shuttle between Europe and Korea for the last nine years, as he spent most of his professional career in Europe with PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands from the end of 2002, and Manchester United since 2005. Park's style of playing, which requires maximum physical movement and long travel between Europe and Asia, took its toll on his stamina.
The Korea Football Association's heavy dependence on Park kept him on the trot. International matches without Park would have sold fewer tickets and presented a greater challenge, but Park deserved more considerate treatment. He underwent two operations on his knees in 2003 and 2007, but the national team did not grant him enough time to rest. He was called up 11 times in 2009 and 2010 each for international matches. The KFA cannot avoid criticisms for exploiting Park.
In Monday's press conference, he said, "If it hadn't been for the injuries, I probably could have continued. I’m retiring because I can't manage physically."
Many people had high hopes to see Park return to the national team for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, perhaps in a different position to allow for his physical condition. But he dismissed this firmly, saying "There will never be a return to the national team." "If Korea qualifies for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the opportunity should go to the players who worked hard in the regional preliminaries. There are young talented players like Son Heung-min and Kim Bo-kyung who can fill my position," he added.
Park will continue his professional career with Manchester United. "I think I can stay active for at least three to four years," he said.
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