One of the most distinguished Moldovan playing careers was ended this year when Ion Testemiţanu decided to hang up his boots at the age of 35, but as he reflected on his 18 years in the game, he promised uefa.com: "I will stay in football."
The defender and midfielder spent his final season at FC Zimbru Chişinău, the club he made his first appearances for as a teenager in 1991, while the news of his retirement made headlines in Moldova. Testemiţanu was the first Moldovan to play in England, with Bristol City FC, and his career also took him to South Korean side Songnam Ilhwa FC – with whom he won the title and reached the AFC Champions League final – as well as Russian teams FC Sibir Novosibirsk and FC Terek Grozny, and Azerbaijan's FC İnter Bakı. Testemiţanu also had three separate spells with perennial Moldovan champions FC Sheriff prior to his return to Zimbru. Capped more than 50 times by his country, and twice Moldovan Player of the Year, he was a leader on the pitch and was never afraid to voice his views, even hinting semi-seriously at a move into politics and a bid for the presidency.
"The decision to hang up my boots was quite dramatic and final," Testemiţanu said. "I understood I could not play better and did not want to play worse. They say that appetite comes with eating, but when I returned to my native Zimbru I realised I did not have the desire to play anymore. Unfortunately, despite having a good infrastructure, the former giants of Moldovan football lack stability and have underperformed for the last eight years."
Nicknamed 'Iron Man' by the Bristol City fans and eight times a Moldovan champion, Testemiţanu's last year as a player was an emotional one. "It was my father who cultivated the love football in me," he said. "Having worked at Zimbru for many years, he really wanted me to end my career at this club. He died in August, a few days before I fulfilled his wish and signed for Zimbru. He dreamed about being a football player. His wish did not come true, but I became a professional instead. I was lucky with my first coaches; they gave me a lot in a terms of education. I got a good schooling that helped me in my career."
Seeing the world
With more than 400 league appearances across Europe and Asia, Testemiţanu fulfilled many ambitions. "I was lucky to see the world during the 18 years of my professional career and to play for really good teams," he said. "I don't have any reason to complain about my career. I hope our young players achieve such success or maybe more." Testemiţanu himself could even have a part in those youngsters' rise. "I have already started to attend UEFA coaching courses," he said. "I worked under many coaches in Moldova, England, Russia, Korea and Azerbaijan. I learned many things from them. I will try to help players to realise their potential. If I am not successful, I will stay in football anyway maybe in another role."
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