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S. Korean football icon Park Ji-sung announces retirement

All Headlines 11:07 May 14, 2014

SUWON, South Korea, May 14 (Yonhap) -- Park Ji-sung, one of South Korea's biggest football icons, retired from the sport on Wednesday at age 33.

Park made the announcement at JS Football Center, named after his initial in Suwon, about 45 kilometers south of Seoul. He grew up in the city and also has a street named after him here.

Park played his last match on May 3 with the Dutch club PSV Eindhoven and ended his second tour of duty with the Dutch club with a 2-0 win over NAC Breda. Under contract with Queens Park Rangers (QPR) in England, the midfielder was loaned to PSV for the past season, in which the club finished fourth among 18 teams in the Eredivisie, the top-flight competition in the Netherlands.

Park, a versatile player known for tireless work ethic, leaves the sport with his legacy in international and club play well secured.

He represented South Korea at three straight FIFA World Cups starting in 2002, and scored a goal in all three tournaments.

Park netted the winner in co-host South Korea's 1-0 victory over Portugal in the final group match in 2002, putting the country in the knockout stage for the first time ever.

Four years later, Park scored the equalizer to hold the eventual runner-up France to a 1-1 draw, but South Korea couldn't get past the group phase in Germany.

In 2010 in South Africa, Park was the South Korean captain, and scored the second goal in a 2-0 win over Greece, as South Korea reached the round of 16 for the first time away from home.

All in all, Park played 100 international matches, one of eight South Koreans with at least 100 caps.

The undersized player, overlooked by South Korean scouts out of high school, entered a minor college before making his professional debut with Japan's Kyoto Purple Sanga in 2000. Following a successful campaign at the 2002 World Cup, Park joined PSV Eindhoven, coached by Guus Hiddink, who'd managed South Korea at the World Cup.

Three years later, Park became the first South Korean to reach English Premier League, when he signed with Manchester United. He went on to enjoy the best seven-year span of his pro career, winning four Premiership titles and one UEFA Champions League crown.

Park left Man United to join another Premier League club, QPR, before the 2012-13 season. He began the season as QPR's new captain, but the club was relegated to the second-tier Football League Championship for the following season.

Park returned to PSV before the 2013-14 season and made 23 Eredivisie appearances.

Park has long been known for his ability to play anywhere in midfield and also his high work rate, which earned him a moniker 'Three-Lung Park' while with Manchester United. Park's hard-nosed, all-out style of play, though, might also have been his undoing, given his history of knee problems.

He underwent a major operation on his right knee in April 2007 that kept him off the field for eight months, and he had occasional flare-ups on the same leg over the ensuing years.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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