April 01, 2015 12:46
Cha Du-ri, known for his ever-present smile, was moved to tears at a ceremony to mark his retirement from the Korean national football team, held at halftime during the friendly against New Zealand at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Tuesday.
Tears welled in Cha's eyes when a video compilation of fans' messages of encouragement and gratitude began to play. The tears flowed freely when his father, football legend Cha Bum-kun, came onto the ground to deliver a bouquet of flowers to his son.
"I received so much support from so many people, more than I have earned. I didn't do very well, but I always tried to do my best. Now I can leave the game with peace of mind, knowing my sincere efforts were somewhat recognized by many people. Thank you so much for allowing me to leave happily and proudly," Cha said.
Cha's career was not as decorated or as glorious as those of the true legends of Korean football. Tuesday's match was Cha's 76th international match since his national team debut in 2001. In that time he scored just four goals, with seven assists. But his tireless work ethic won the hearts of many fans, and he calls time on his international career with his head held high, after 13 years and 143 days.
Cha took the field as captain for Tuesday's match, and when he left the pitch to make way for substitute Kim Chang-soo, he did so to a standing ovation from some 33,000 people in the crowd. Manager Uli Stielike gave him a warm hug as he stepped out of the ground.
Cha resembled his father, but possessed even a better physical stature. The younger Cha scored 18 goals in 230 games in nine seasons in Germany, a record overshadowed by his father's towering achievement of 121 goals in 372 games.
Recalling the moment at the retirement ceremony in which Cha cried in the arms of his father, he said, "I felt relieved that I'm letting go of this huge responsibility, but I also felt a bit sad that my football career is ending without surpassing my great father. However, it was a great blessing and happiness to be able to live with my role model."
This season will be Cha's last with K League team FC Seoul.
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