One of the key players in New Zealand’s historic qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Paston had already signalled his time was up at Wellington Phoenix – the nation’s only professional club – several months ago.
In an international career partly hindered by injury and unavailability, Paston retires with 35 caps for the All Whites dating back to September 1997.
“Since retiring from the Phoenix I haven’t really missed playing football and that was a pretty good sign that it was time to move on,” said Paston.
“I’ve been given an opportunity in a new career doing something that I enjoy and my energy is focused in that direction at the moment.”
“A World Cup campaign takes a huge amount of time and energy and I feel if I can’t give it the commitment it deserves then it’s time to step aside.”
New Zealand, who are seeking to reach successive FIFA World Cups for the first time in their history, are set to face the fourth-best CONCACAF nation in November with the winner advancing to Brazil 2014.
Paston came to national and global prominence during the campaign for South Africa 2010 as New Zealand ended a 28 year drought from the world stage.
Early in the second half of the intercontinental play-off against Bahrain, Paston dived low to his right to save Sayed Mohamed Adnan’s penalty ensuring the All Whites edged past their opponents who would have otherwise advanced on away goals.
“The game against Bahrain was probably one of my favourite memories of playing in an All Whites shirt, along with the entire 2010 World Cup campaign,” said the 36-year-old. “There’s no one single moment that I would pick out, but that was a pretty special time in my career.”
At the time New Zealand newspaper Sunday Star Times called the block ‘the greatest save in the history of the New Zealand game’, and Paston went onto reprise his heroics in South Africa.
“I think they have a fantastic chance to qualify again”, said Paston on the All Whites’ chances for a second successive FIFA World Cup appearance.
“Its 180 minutes and who knows what can happen. The first leg is going to be very important as it was against Bahrain. Get a good result away from home and they will always have a chance at home.”
The Kiwis conceded just two goals in South Africa, with Paston featuring prominently in what will go down as a breakthrough moment in the history of New Zealand football. The largely unheralded All Whites exited after the group stage without a loss ensuring they, somewhat remarkably, became the only team in the 32 nation tournament to avoid defeat.
“Mark has always displayed a true passion and dedication for the All Whites," said New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert. “He was always committed and determined to be a winner.”