Park: Retirement opens door for youth
© AFP

Korea Republic midfielder Park Ji-Sung said today that he was retiring from international duty with Korea Republic to make way for younger players with "enormous potential".

Park, who has won 100 caps and played in each of the past three FIFA World Cups™, officially confirmed he was stepping down after national coach Cho Kwang-Rae announced the news on Friday. The 29-year-old said he had not set a date for his professional retirement and was thinking of playing for at least another three to four years.

Park told a packed press conference it had been "an utmost honour" to play for his country over the course of 11 years. "But I am announcing my retirement to open more doors for younger, junior players who have to grow to replace me eventually," he said.

My departure will help more young players who have demonstrated their talent and ability during the Asian Cup to prepare for the next World Cup.
Korea Republic midfielder Park Ji-Sung

"Like we have seen during the Asian Cup games, there are many young Korean players who have enormous potential, passion and talent like Koo Ja-Cheol, Ji Dong-Won and Son Heung-Min. Just like I was given an opportunity for enormous growth during the 2002 World Cup, I think it is necessary to give good opportunities to junior players through generational change."

Park has suffered right knee pain after two major operations, and said this was also a factor in his decision. He sat out South Korea's victory against Uzbekistan on Friday which gained them third place in the AFC Asian Cup. He attributed his problems partly to long trips from England to South Korea and to other venues for internationals, but said it never entered his mind to refuse to play for his country.

"I think without health issues I could have continued my international career," he said. "But I will accept the situation as it is and I have no regrets."

He said he had no plans to make an international comeback for the next FIFA World Cup in Brazil. "Even if the South Korean team manages to go to the 2014 World Cup, it's the players who will make that happen. Thus the opportunities (to play) should be given to them alone," he said.

"My departure will help more young players who have demonstrated their talent and ability during the Asian Cup to prepare for the next World Cup."