May 15, 2014 09:24
Park Ji-sung announced his retirement from professional football on Wednesday morning at a press conference in his hometown of Suwon, near Seoul.
The player dubbed "Three-Lung Park" for his amazing powers of endurance on the pitch said he had started to seriously consider leaving the sport in February due to chronic knee injuries.
"My knees just kept getting worse, to the point where I had to rest for four days after every match. I wasn't sure if I could last for another season," said Park, who spent his final season on loan to Dutch club PSV Eindhoven from English Championship side Queen Park Rangers.
In 2005, Park became the first Korean to play in the English Premier League. He grew to excel in partnership with Wayne Rooney as a forward for Manchester United during a seven-year stint with the former EPL champions.
The most decorated Asian footballer is also the only Asian to have scored in three consecutive World Cups -- in 2002, 2006, and 2010. He is generally seen as the most skilled and successful Korean football player of all time.
"There were times when I was envious of highly skilled players," he said. "But I also believed that I have talents that other players lack."
Even before the press conference began, Park's agenda was made clear by a display of the 10 club uniforms he wore from elementary school to his second and final stint with PSV Eindhoven. Black boots from his first-ever club were placed on one side of a table while the orange studs he wore in his last Eredivisie match were on the other.
Appearing in a black suit and white shirt, Park sat sandwiched between his parents. Although his mother was at times overwhelmed with emotion while Park spoke, the player reminisced calmly about his career in front of over 100 journalists.
"I don't have any regrets. There were no tears as of yesterday, so I was thinking perhaps I’d shed some today, but they're still not coming," he said, smiling.
When asked if he was considering moving into coaching, Park said, "Not at all. I don't even have the right qualifications for that."
On the prospect of becoming a commentator, he was also anything but enthusiastic. "I don't want to do that because I fear I'll end up criticizing too much," he said.
Toward the end of the press conference, Park's fiancée, Kim Min-ji, a former news presenter for SBS, made a surprise visit and handed him a bouquet of flowers. The two started dating in May last year and will tie the knot at a hotel in Seoul on July 27.
There will be opportunities for fans to meet Park before his wedding as he will take part in PSV Eindhoven's tour of Korea this month. Two friendlies have been lined up, one against Suwon Samsung Bluewings on May 22 and another against Gyeongnam FC on May 24.
He will also host a charity match dubbed the Asian Dream Cup in Indonesia in June. Two days before his wedding, he will participate in a K-League All Stars game in Seoul on July 25.
To younger Korean footballers who are currently training for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Park said, "The players of the national football team should strive to achieve the unprecedented target of advancing to the quarterfinals [for the first time on foreign soil]. I'm sure things will run smoothly if the first game [against Russia] goes well."
Reflecting on his illustrious, 14-year professional career, he said, "I would be most honored to be remembered as a reliable and trustworthy player."
FIFA delivered the news of his retirement on its website. "Former Manchester United star Park Ji-sung announced his retirement on Wednesday, ending a trailblazing career which made him Asia's most decorated player," it wrote.
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