Greece soccer captain retires

Following months of contemplation, Thodoris Zagorakis, the national team’s 34-year-old captain who led Greece to its Euro 2004 triumph, has finally decided to retire from international play, Greek soccer’s federation chief announced yesterday. Commenting on local radio, Vassilis Gagatsis, the federation boss, said Zagorakis, the all-time record holder for games played with Greece, had made up his mind to step aside. Gagatsis added that the player wanted to remain active as a squad official. He also said it was now being looked at to create a post for the inspiring and long-serving captain. Zagorakis had disclosed his willingness to retire from the national squad several months ago but was asked to reconsider by the team’s coach Otto Rehhagel and Gagatsis. «For as long as I’m at the federation, I’d want Thodoris at the national team, at any post. It’s a fact that he wants to stop,» said Gagatsis. «He’s realized that his time has come. He knows his limits. We’re in the process of looking to create a post for him which he’d like to have, too. We want him to be a part of the squad every time it gathers. He was a natural leader.» Zagorakis was first capped in 1994, incidentally, on this very day, against the Faroe Islands, and has since represented Greece 118 times. Highlighting his commitment and tenacity, Zagorakis never missed an international game due to injury after his debut with Greece 12 years ago. The aging player, who turns 35 next month, is expected to carry on at club level with Thessaloniki team PAOK, which he rejoined last year following a six-year tenure that began in 1992. In between, Zagorakis played with English club Leicester City, Athens team AEK, and Italy’s Bologna. Zagorakis, who played an important role in Greece’s Euro 2004 victory, was named Player of the Tournament. He is expected to make a farewell appearance with Greece in its upcoming Euro 2008 qualifier against Norway in Athens next month.