15 for 2015: A Legend Retires (#9)

The past couple of years have just been filled with high profile retirements from the KNT. Our 9th post in our 15 for 2015 series: The Retirement of Cha Du Ri

South Korea's defender Cha Du-ri, left, is comforted by his father Cha Bum-kun, former South Korean soccer player, during his retirement ceremony at half time of a friendly soccer match against New Zealand at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
South Korea’s defender Cha Du-ri, left, is comforted by his father Cha Bum-kun, former South Korean soccer player, during his retirement ceremony at half time of a friendly soccer match against New Zealand at Seoul World Cup Stadium in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 31, 2015. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Park Ji Sung retired in 2014 and made everyone sad, but for some reason I was even more sad at the big profile retirement of 2015: Cha Du Ri. Now PJS was easily the most influential Korean player of the past decade, and I bet it’ll be a very long time until someone matches his feats. Now Cha Du Ri was not anywhere near as decorated as PJS, and the most pessimistic of Korean fans will probably remember him for some instances of bad defending. But Cha Du Ri was a character endeared by most fans, as much for his on-field exploits as well as his off field character. Don’t get me wrong, Park Ji Sung is a great guy (and incredibly funny, if you’ve seen his Running Man cameos) but Cha Du Ri is different – always smiling/cheerful, incredibly passionate, and was said to be a powerful positive influence in the locker room.

Cha Du Ri was born in Frankfurt during Cha Bum Kun’s heyday in the Bundesliga, so it really made too much sense that he would follow in his father’s footsteps, though Cha DR’s older sister and younger brother did not. Educated in Korea (he played for Korea University’s football team for three years), CDR would sign for Leverkusen at the age of 22, but never featured for the team and was loaned to Arminia Bielefeld and Eintracht Frankfurt, where he impressed enough to be signed for the first team. With Eintracht he spent three seasons, making 95 appearances but only 13 goals, one of which was this beauty:

This whole time he was a striker and wasn’t putting in very good numbers, so in 2006, signing for Mainz05, he officially made his switch to right back. Unfortunately, injuries hampered his progress, and CDR would then flit between many different clubs, including Koblenz, Freiburg, Celtic, Dusseldorf, before coming back to Korea with FC Seoul.

Now there’s a theme here that you guys are certainly aware of: Cha Du Ri never became as good as his father. And it’s very sad to imagine what he must have gone through. Constantly being compared to the legend that was Bum Kun Cha would place enormous pressure on any Korean player today, a fact that cause many fans to sympathize with the guy.

Fortunately, Cha did show flashes of brilliance. All throughout his career he may never have showed that killer goalscoring instinct or defending prowess, but if there was one thing CDR could do reliably it was 1) win physical battles and 2) ridiculous speed. He truly was a machine – it won him affectionate nicknames like “autobahn,” “robot,” “chaminator,” etc. A character in the Korean animation series 변신 자동차 또봇 was even named Cha Du Ri because why not?

robo
From Cha Senior’s 나무위키 page

He even came close to making history in 2002 with this overhead kick:

I do wonder though, if it wasn’t for such a great Asian Cup 2015 final bow, would we remember Cha Du Ri as fondly as we do today? Because his solid performances then, as well as this gem, are some of his highlights – redemption for a mixed 2010 WC (solid vs Greece and Uruguay, poor especially vs Nigeria) and mixed 2011 AC?

lolll
Samaras gets frustrated at CDR?

Following a career filled with its ups and downs, Cha Du Ri finally announced retirement after the Asian Cup, but a testimonial match was to be held in the friendly vs New Zealand. And what a sad moment that was (god I was in tears the first time I saw this). There are highlight videos from the KFA below, but check out the above link for more details and things we learned from Cha Du Ri’s speech and interview.

So that concludes our Cha Du Ri special in our 15 for 2015 series. But we want to know too – what’s your favorite Cha Du Ri moment? Comment below!