Vancouver Whitecaps defender Lee Young-Pyo will retire at the end of the 2013 season, the club announced Tuesday.
The 36-year-old former South Korean international will be honored at the team's final home game of the year, on Oct. 27. It is certain to be his last game with the Whitecaps, as the team has already been eliminated from playoff contention.
“It will be the most memorable game in my life,” Lee said in a club statement. “I’m a happy guy. I learned so many things throughout my career, much more than I had expected when I was young. It is a great time to finish with a great team and great people. I deeply appreciate our fans, my teammates, and all of the staff in the club. I’m sure Vancouver Whitecaps FC will remain in my mind as my team forever.”
Lee will be calling time on a 13-year professional career that saw him earn 127 caps for his country and appear in three World Cups. At the club level, he was a two-time Dutch Eredivisie champion and Champions League semifinalist with PSV and also spent three years with Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League and a season with Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga.
“I have been playing soccer for the last 28 years, so I think it’s the time to stop,” said Lee. “It is an emotional time for me, but I’m so happy because when I came here two years ago I never expected to finish my career like this. I’m so happy to retire with a great team and great people. I owe thanks to everybody.”
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He moved to the Whitecaps from Al-Hilal of Saudi Arabia prior to the 2012 season and was named the team's player of the year in that season. During his two seasons in Vancouver, Lee accumulated a goal and 10 assist in 64 MLS appearances and provided a steadying veteran presence on the team's back line.
“He’ll go down as a really significant player in the club’s history,” said Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie in a statement. “I think that he helped our team become more professional, he helped players learn more about what it means to succeed at this level, and he’s just a really positive role model on and off the field. He is a legend and I think not just because how well he’s done as a player throughout the world but for the kind of person that he is.”