Miroslav Karhan has retired from international football after Slovakia's loss to Russia on Friday ended his "secret dream of saying farewell at UEFA EURO 2012".
Karhan was in celebratory mood before his 107th and, it transpired, final outing for his country as he received a commemorative cap and medal from UEFA for amassing a century or more of national team appearances. However, it was difficult for the 35-year-old to remain upbeat as Slovakia's chances of reaching next summer's tournament were ended by a 1-0 home defeat in Zilina.
"Making 100 starts for the national team is nice but statistics have never been that important to me," said the FC Spartak Trnava midfielder. "I never dreamed about that." Karhan's disappointment was understandable given the hopes he had harboured of a final swansong in Slovakia colours.
"I will definitely retire now," confirmed the former VfL Wolfsburg and 1. FSV Mainz 05 player. "It is not a spontaneous decision. I said before the start of qualifying that as long as Slovakia had a chance of reaching the European Championship I would be ready to help. But now it is over, so unfortunately is my secret dream of saying my international farewell in Poland and Ukraine."
Karhan, who missed the 2010 FIFA World Cup through injury, brings the curtain down on a 16-year career in which he scored 14 goals and forged many friendships. "Of course, I will miss the internationals because we are still good friends and have had a great time together." If the veteran was a friend to some, he was also a paternal figure to others – and one whom coach Vladimír Weiss is sad to be losing. "He is like the father of the squad," said Weiss. "If only I had more like him."
Slovakia striker Róbert Vittek paid tribute to a player whose invaluable contribution he felt regularly went unnoticed. "He often never got the credit he deserved but was lucky in that he did not pick up many injuries during his career," he said. Coach Karol Pecze, who had taken him under his wing in his early years at Spartak Trnava, added: "He is an example to youngsters because he is so committed and knows how to work for the team."
Though his international career ended on a low, Karhan – who, after brief spells at Real Betis Balompié and Beşiktaş JK, spent ten seasons in Germany with Wolfsburg and Mainz – could still hit an all-time high with Spartak, the club where he started his career in 1994 and to which he returned this summer. "I would like to spring a surprise with Spartak," said Karhan, whose side top the Slovakian standings after 11 matches.
Whether he succeeds in winning his first First League title or not, it is clear that Karhan has made a positive impression on Slovakian football. As the national daily Šport put it with today's front-page headline: "Miro, thanks!"
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