WELLINGTON Phoenix inaugural skipper Ross Aloisi will quit all football, with his decision to end his professional career forced by a serious ongoing back injury.
The 34-year-old Australian was one of the Phoenix-s first signings for the club-s debut in the Hyundai A-League, joining the Wellington-based outfit from Adelaide United.
Aloisi led the Reds to the inaugural Hyundai A-League title in 2005/06 and to the grand final in 2006/07.
His decision to retire caps an 18-year career in professional football in Australasia, Europe and Asia.
Aloisi said making the decision to retire from football had been tough.
“It was very hard because that-s all I-ve done all pretty much all of my life – play football. No one ever wants to end their career but, unfortunately, due to injury, I-ve got to call it quits.
“I have a severe back problem. I-ve got three bulging discs in my back and a problem with a fractured vertebra. I get a lot of pain in my feet and heels and my legs go numb.”
Aloisi said he had wanted to play on for possibly another two years, but the injury forced his hand.
“Whether it was in a year or two years, I was going to end my career anyway. Unfortunately I-ve had to end it now. I-m worried about my health, so I have to do what-s best here and now. It-s doctor-s orders – I run the risk of doing irreparable damage to my back if I ever play again.”
Aloisi said the Phoenix had given him the time and space to make the decision.
“I sat down with [coach] Ricki Herbert and [chief executive] Tony Pignata. They asked me what I wanted to do and I told them I wasn-t 100 per cent sure. I knew I had the injury but I wasn-t sure how bad it was and I was hoping I could recover.
“When it became clear I wouldn-t come right I talked to Ricki and Tony again and told them I wouldn-t be able to play.”
Pignata said Aloisi had been an inspirational footballing figure.
“He brought exceptional qualities to the Phoenix in year one. Ross has been an ornament to the game and has had a stellar career. It was a coup for us to get him across the Tasman to be our inaugural captain.”
Aloisi deserved the time the club gave him to make the decision about his playing future.
“Because of what he-s given to the game it was only right that we gave him some space to make his decision,” Pignata said. “It-s sad when someone like Ross Aloisi retires, because you-re a long time retired, but I think he can reflect on his career and what he-s achieved and be proud of what he-s done for football and what football has done for him.”
The straight-shooting Aloisi had endeared himself to football fans and the media throughout New Zealand and Australia.
“He-s never been one to back down and he-s always told it as it was. What he did was give the Phoenix a great profile not only in New Zealand but in Australia as well.”
Pignata said he did have one regret with regard to Aloisi-s career.
“It was unfortunate that we weren-t able to have his brother, John, come and play alongside Ross at the Phoenix. But one thing Ricki and I did promise Ross was that he would play against his brother no matter what in the last game of the season [against the Central Coast Mariners].
“That was his final game in the A-League, and for him to stand alongside his brother, both of them as captains and with their kids, was a truly touching moment.”
Aloisi played 47 games for Adelaide United in the Hyundai A-League and scored three goals. He played 13 games for the Phoenix and scored twice. In international football Aloisi made five appearances for the Socceroos.
PLEASE NOTE: A feature-length story about Ross Aloisi will be circulated later today.