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Sun's retirement leaves China to suffer wait for new genius
( 2003-10-06 14:21) (Xinhua)

Sun Wen said she had no regrets in her 18-year playing career when the fourth Women's World Cup quarterfinal defeat to Canada became her swan song.

It's really a heartbreaking ending. Also beautiful. Isn't it?

She found international fame four years ago at Rose Bowl in Los Angeles when China lost to the United States in an epic finale. She won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot award.

Here in Portland, the northwest city of the United States, best known in the world for its roses, she played her final match.

The 30-year-old finally found that football is just part of her life, and most importantly only "a game" that people should enjoy.

"In 10 or 20 years, nobody will remember tonight's game. Football is only a game and life must move on," said the China captain when announcing her retirement following their surprise 1-0 defeat to Canada at Portland's PGE Park Thursday night.

Now China has to wait for a new talent to fill Sun's giant shoes and the Chinese fans must keep extremely patient.

China coach Ma Liangxing, who nurtured Sun as youth team coach in Shanghai in the 1980s, warned it's almost impossible for the country to have a new Sun Wen in the foreseen future.

"Someone asked me whether I could find a new Sun Wen. I said it's impossible. We can't teach someone to be a talent. We have to wait for a talent to appear," Ma said.

Sun is the only player in China to have played in four World Cups. She was named by FIFA as the best women's player of the 20th century and became the first woman to be nominated for the Asian Football Confederation's Player of the Year award. She also won a silver medal at the Atlanta Olympics.

"I think she's the equivalent of Maradona, with the long shot and passing of (Luis) Figo, and the vision of (Zinedine) Zidane," said the Chinese coach.

Ma, who has coached Sun at all levels during her career, added: "She not only makes goals, she can organize the team. She's a scorer and goal maker, just like Maradona. It's been an honor for me to have Sun Wen in my teams."

In 2001, she joined the Atlanta Beat as top pick in the inaugural draft of America's WUSA. Plagued with injuries, she onlyscored seven goals in two seasons, but the Beat's head coach Tome Stone was grateful for Sun's contribution to his team.

"It was truly an honor and pleasure to have Sun Wen on our team. Unfortunately, we saw only glimpses of her greatness as he fought knee pain throughout her time with the Beat," said Stone.

"With Sun Wen it was magical, just magical. I'll never forget some of the things she did and how many times in practice she would do stuff and all the players on our team would look at each other like, 'I have never seen that before'. "

For Sun Wen, who scored 106 goals for her country in 152 appearances, a failure to win Olympic gold or World Cup never troubles her. On the contrary, she always feels great to wear a China shirt.

"I'm so proud that I have played in all four World Cups. It's agreat honor to play for my country for a long time," she said.

Sun will further her study of international relations in Shanghai's prestigious Fudan University but has not decided what to do after graduation.

"I know that there are a lot more things I can do in the future.I know there will be more challenges. I love to take challenge," she said.

But when bidding farewell to football, Sun said she feels a little sad.

"I will feel sad because I have been doing this for 18 years. I have been married to football. It takes time to get used to a different life," she said.

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