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Veteran goalkeeper fails to find team, denies retirement rumors

2016/03/29 15:40

SEOUL, March 29 (Yonhap) -- Kim Byung-ji, the oldest player in South Korean professional football, said on Tuesday he will not retire even though he's yet to find a club for this season.

Kim, who turns 46 on April 8, has been searching for a club after his contract with Jeonnam Dragons in the top-flight K League Classic ended last year. In order to play in the K League Classic or the second-tier K League Challenge, all players needed to be registered with clubs by Monday. However, the data from the league office on Tuesday showed that Kim's name was not listed on any of the 23 professional clubs.

This means that the veteran goalkeeper, who has played a league-record 706 matches, is not eligible to play at least the first half of this season. The registration for the second half of the season starts in July.

"I did have contacts with some clubs, but in the end, we failed to reach an agreement," he said. "I'm not sure whether I will register in July because at this moment, I don't have specific transfer plans."

   Kim, however, denied speculation that he will hang up his boots. The goalkeeper, who represented South Korea at the 1998 and the 2002 FIFA World Cups, insisted that he can still compete with young players on the pitch.

"I'm not thinking about ending my career," he said. "I can still exercise and my level of play doesn't plunge just in a day."

   Kim said he is busy focusing on solving family matters rather than his transfer issues. Kim, who has three sons, is currently in a legal battle after his youngest son was involved in a school violence incident last year.

"My priority is to solve family matters and focus on my children," he said. "I heard that some teams were afraid that I could damage their public image because of my family issues. But the case is almost closed."

   Kim made his pro debut with Ulsan Hyundai FC in 1992 and has played for four different teams since. He played 61 matches for South Korea with his final appearance dating back to 2008.

In this file photo taken on Jan. 25, 2016, South Korean goalkeeper Kim Byung-ji speaks during a press conference in Seoul. (Yonhap) In this file photo taken on Jan. 25, 2016, South Korean goalkeeper Kim Byung-ji speaks during a press conference in Seoul. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr

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