It’s safe to say that all top-flight professional footballers dread retirement because it robs them of the chance to enjoy their favourite sport forever. As such, retirement goodbyes in football are always tear-filled affairs, whether players are hanging up their boots due to age, sickness, or injury.
Many ex-players pursue other non-football-related exploits while others take the popular punditry or coaching route. However, many footballers have come out of retirement to play the beautiful game again, just not in the top flight. These footballers were constantly responsible for winning bets, so fans are always happy to see them return to football. Some of these players have turned up for local amateur teams as regulars or on a part-time basis. Here are examples of six football pros that turned to amateur teams after retirement.
Ricardo Kaka played as an attacking midfielder for Sao Paulo, Real Madrid, AC Milan, and Orlando City. Football fans remember him in his prime at AC Milan, where he was noted for his goal-scoring, dribbles from midfield, and creative passing. Kaka has enjoyed great success at the club and international level, winning the FIFA World Cup and UEFA Champions League. He also won the Ballon D’or in 2007 and was the last person to win the award before the Messi-Ronaldo dominance era was ended by Luka Modric in 2018. The skilful and technical Brazilian is widely considered one of the best players of his generation.
Kaka turned up to play a Sunday league game in Hackney as part of Adidas’ Rent-A-Pred campaign, just before the pandemic. Perhaps the oddest moment about the encounter was his teammate screaming at him to square the ball, a request the former Ballon D’or ignored and went on to score with his weaker foot. This iconic moment immediately became known on Twitter as the “cut it back” video. From the unlikelihood of this superstar playing amateur football in Sunday league to the iconic goal and his teammate asking for the pass, it has solidified itself as one of the best footballing videos to hit the internet.
Paul Scholes was surely one of the all-time greats of Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United era. He was highly regarded for his technical skills, accurate passing, playmaking, sleek movement, and long-range shooting ability. Scholes won it all at Manchester United and has received praises from many managers and former players who consider him England’s best midfielder and one of the best central midfielders of all time.
Royton Town, a sideway down in the 11th tier of English football, had several injuries on their hands before a game against Stockport Georgians AFC. The former Manchester United man’s son played for the side and managed to convince his father to don their strip for one game only. Imagine the shock on the faces of the Stockport Georgians AFC players when they discovered the dad helping out was none other than Paul Scholes. However, his presence wasn’t enough to stop the Stockport Georgians from running away with a narrow 1-0 win, a victory they will surely mention at every available opportunity.
Roberto Carlos is undoubtedly one of the best left-backs of all time. He is most famously remembered for his time at Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and in a Brazil shirt. Carlos was a freekick specialist and had a knack for bending shots. He was also a powerful striker of the ball from long range and could produce curling shots in dead ball situations.
Carlos played for Bull in the Barne, a pub team that had won an eBay raffle called “Dream Transfer.” The team’s reward was the one-game signing of Carlos to help the company’s Football Beyond Borders campaign. He marked his one-game appearance with a calm penalty, but his team lost the game 4-3. However, the real victory for the team came after the match when Roberto Carlos stuck around for a drink. The iconic Brazilian video called former Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, much to the delight of all present.
Tony Hibbert was one of the first names on the bench for Everton for nearly two decades. He spent his entire professional career at the club but never scored, with a long-running joke saying the Everton fans would riot when he did. Indeed, they invaded the pitch when he scored a freekick in his testimonial side.
Hibbert moved toThe Hares FC, an amateur team in Merseyside, but didn’t quite impress on his debut. In fact, he missed a crucial penalty for the side in a 1-0 loss, ending an impressive unbeaten run that started way before he joined. At age 40, he joined ES Louzy, a team in the 10th division of French football, for no apparent reason. Hibbert scored on his debut for ES Louzy in January 2022.
Park Ji-Sung, famously known as “Three Lungs” Park, is a former South Korean pro footballer who was a midfielder. He is one of the most successful Asian layers in history, racking up 19 trophies in his career. He was also the first Asian to win the UEFA Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup.
“Three Lungs” Park pursued an MA in Management, Law, and Humanities of Sport at De Montfort University after retirement. He played for his course’s football team, but that did not stop them from losing 7-1.
Edwin Van Der Sar is a Dutch former professional goalkeeper widely regarded as one of the safest pairs of hands in the game’s history. He won trophies at Manchester United, Ajax, and Juventus. He has also won the Premier League Golden Glove and UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year award.
Van Der Sar came out of retirement at age 45 to represent his first senior club, VV Noordwijk, after they had lost all goalkeepers to injuries. That was his first and last match for the amateur side, and he saved a penalty in typical fashion.