SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s 2002 World Cup hero Ahn Jung-hwan has officially retired from football.
The 36-year-old striker became famous around the world for scoring the golden goal that eliminated Italy in the second round of the World Cup hosted jointly by Japan and South Korea.
South Korea went on to the semifinals, the best ever performance from an Asian team at a World Cup.
After a varied career in the K-league, Italy, Japan, France, Germany and China, an emotional Ahn told a media conference Tuesday, broadcast live on national television, that he had thought long and hard about retirement.
“After 14 years, I decided to quit and I’m looking forward for the challenge of a new life,” said Ahn, who has spent the last three seasons with Chinese side Dalian. “I have many happy memories from playing with my teammates at the 2002 World Cup, but while my mind is in 2002, my body is in 2012.”
Ahn was playing for Italian team Perugia in 2002 when he was famously fired by the president of the Serie A club after scoring the goal that eliminated Italy at the World Cup, although Perugia quickly claimed that there had been a misunderstanding.
The 1999 K-League Most Valuable Player then had three successful years in Japan before lacklustre spells in France with Metz and Duisberg in Germany in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
“I was honoured to represent my country at three World Cups and I enjoyed every moment,” said Ahn who also scored the winning goal in South Korea’s 2006 World Cup opener against Togo in Frankfurt, the nation’s first ever victory in the tournament on foreign soil.
He also appeared in South Africa as the team reached the second round, making the last of his 67 international appearances.
Ahn, who returned to South Korea for a second K-League spell with the Suwon Bluewings and his original club Busan I’Park, said he wanted to work with young players in the future for the development of Korean football.