Galaxy's Hong announces retirement
one of his country's most experience players with 135 international appearances -- was the first Korean player ever to play in Major League Soccer. He joined the Galaxy shortly after the 2002 FIFA World Cup in his native land, his fourth World Cup as a member of the Korean team (1990, 1994, 1998, 2002). He led his national side to a stunning fourth-place finish in the 2002 competition, playing in all seven matches and winning the adidas Bronze Ball for his outstanding defensive efforts.
In his first season with the Galaxy, Hong played 25 games for the club, all as a starter. He has been limited to only 13 appearances this season -- nine as a starter -- due to consistent injury problems.
"After a great deal of consultation with my family, I have decided to bring my career to a close," said Hong. "I wish to thank the entire Galaxy organization and the Korean community of Southern California for all they have done for me since I arrived here almost two years ago."
Prior to coming to the United States, Hong played 10 seasons in two of the Far East's top leagues - Korea's K-League and Japan's J-League. He made 266 appearances during his tenure in Korean and Japan, winning the Asian Club Player of the Year Award in 1997. Hong also was named to the K-League's Best XI five times and was once selected as the J-League's Most Valuable Player.
Despite his retirement from the field, Hong will remain in the United States with his family as he pursues a master's degree in either sports management or public administration. He plans for soccer to still be an important part of his life and will begin a career in coaching while he completes his coursework.
Hong, who was earlier this year named to "The 100" -- a list of the top 125 active living soccer players, as compiled by FIFA and Brazilian legend Pele -- has not only been active on the field during his 12-year professional career. He also has been active in the community, going so far as to start his own youth outreach program. The "Bo Foundation" was created in April 2004 and is designed to encourage youngsters to set life goals and to assist disadvantaged children through the use of soccer-related programs. The program also aids minority players in earning soccer scholarships at the collegiate level.
The Galaxy have two regular season matches remaining this season, at home this Saturday as they host the Dallas Burn, and away at Kansas City the following weekend. Los Angeles has already clinched a spot in the 2004 MLS Cup Playoffs, as they are currently tied for second place in the Western Conference with Colorado, each side with 40 points. L.A. has one game in hand on the Rapids. Kansas City holds the top spot with 45 points.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Soccer or its clubs.